Tuesday, November 30, 2010

SAVE THE TIGER (1973)

Jack Lemmon is a man pushed to the edge. He's a WWII vet haunted with the guilt of being alive when so many of his buddies died. What did he do with his life? The life that his buddies didn't get to live. Did he become a baseball player like he so innocently dreamed of as a child? Did he find a woman who would fill his life with love and happiness? No, he started a clothing factory, a pretty successful one, but now due to some financial acrobatics he's secretly broke and unless he comes up with a whole lot of money before the IRS audits him he's gonna go to jail, his factory closed and everybody put out of a job. But that's not all of his problems.

The first few times I saw SAVE THE TIGER I knew it was a great film, but it wasn't until the third time that I realized that it was a masterpiece. Billy Wilder was obviously smarter than me cause the first time he saw it it said "There's only one problem with that movie: I didn't direct it." That's a hell of a compliment coming from a master like Wilder, but I'm actually happy that he didn't direct this film because it's absolutely perfect the way it is. I think with his name attached the studios would have raised the budget and interfered too much. As it was, the budget was only a million dollars and that budget restraint actually helped the film, I think, because it forced the filmmakers (kinda like the Hays Code back in the late 1930's) to become more creative, not in a moral sense, but in a artistic sense to make the film completely 100% off of the studio lot and out on the streets with regular buildings using real people in the background and normal street noises and natural lighting. It doesn't even feel like you're watching a movie, but almost like you secretly peaking into people's private lives filled with hidden demons, false faces and very real fears.

I cannot recommend this movie enough (if you like good movies). It's my 373rd review on Happyotter, but only the 3rd movie that I've added to my Best Movies List. It really is that good. Jack Lemmon gives one of the best performances in the history of cinema and director John G. Avildsen would go on to direct ROCKY and THE KARATE KID. Highly recommended, especially if you're interested in learning how to make movies.

[SPOILER!!!] I've heard some people question the title, SAVE THE TIGER. During one scene a man mentions that there's only a 500 or so tiger left in the world. They are a dying breed. Later the young woman Myra mentions that tigers are known to return to a place of beauty and that's how hunters capture (or kill) them. At one point Lemmon looks at a poster of a tiger and his reflection is cast in the glass. Lemmon is a dying breed and it is only when he's alone or relaxed that he starts dreaming of playing baseball when he was a child. At the end of the movie after he tells the arsonist to never mention his partner he goes to the park to watch the children playing baseball. He is returning to a place of beauty because he knows that his days are numbered and if the police don't get him or the IRS don't get him that his mind is finally going to crack from all of the pressure/guilt.

That's at least my take on the title.