Thursday, February 14, 2013

THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON'T THEY? (1969)

I've long had a fascination with dance marathons, not the bullshit 12-24 hour ones they have nowadays for charity, but the Depression-era dance marathons where they would pretty much just torture the contestants for days, weeks and sometimes even months!!!  And it wasn't just dancing, but also speed-walking, eating while standing up, figure-eight races, blindfolded racing, heel-to-toe sprints, "cot nights", racing while tied together and so on. 

THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON'T THEY? is about one such dance marathon.  Our penniless heroes, Jane Fonda and Michael Sarrazin, enter a marathon dance contest with a prize of $1,500.  Things go smoothly for the first 600 hours or so, but then the lack of sleep, mental/physical exhaustion and the roar of the blood-thirsty crowds really start to take its toll.  Still these desperate people fight on.  How long can it possible go?

A dark subject matter like this would have been perfect for directors like Polanski or Kubrick (can you imagine the intensity of the end game in a dance marathon film by Kubrick?!), but that didn't happen, so instead of a masterpiece about dehumanization and a social commentary with some black humor mixed in, we get an alright but overall forgettable film that honestly was kinda boring.  The speed-walking scenes were engaging, but other than that I really wasn't into it.  None of the characters were successfully fleshed out, the flash forwards were distracting and unneeded, the pacing was a drag, the sets and costumes looked just like that, the continuity of the contest didn't come off very well and that ending.  Ha!

It might sound like I disliked the film, but that's not true.  It just didn't click with me.  I'm sure there's tons of people out there that love this film (hell, it had 9 Oscar nominations and even won 1).  I'm just not one of them.