Monday, October 29, 2007

Into the Prine

Into the Wild won me over within the first few minutes. Midway through, Alexander Supertramp, AKA Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch), and his new friend, Tracy (Kristen Stewart), duet on "Angel from Montgomery."

Granted, it comes from out of left field that he can play an in-
strument (some kind of keyboard contraption), but this is a guy who went with the flow. Sean Penn's filmmaking reflects that flow.

The duo don't perform the world's greatest rendition, but it
would strain credibility if they did. The tune fits the tone of
the piece perfectly. For me, it sealed the deal. John Prine
wrote an amazing song, and his version is great, but Bonnie
Raitt made it her own—it's one of the happiest marriages be-
tween material and performer in the history of popular music:

It really gets to me. And Raitt delivers the lyrical anguish with admirable restraint. Similarly, the movie got to me, too. It's ironic, because one concerns a short life; the other a long one.

In Penn's view—I haven't read Jon Krakauer's book—McCand-
less lived the life he wanted to lead. In Prine's view, his subject compromised her happiness, but retained ownership of her soul. Instead, she asks, "Just give me one thing / that I can hold on to."

She could be Giulietta Masina at the end of Nights of Cabiria: a survivor. Sometimes even the smallest gesture of support can put you back on track. And if that's all it takes—you ain't dead yet.

Then there's this bit: "But how the hell can a person / go on to work in the morning / to come home in the evening / and have nothing to say." I've been reading Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men, and this passage would fit right in—so clean. Yet messy.

It occurs to me that McCandless gives Hal Holbrook's widower Ron "one thing" that he "can hold on to." So, in a sense, Penn's film combines both perspectives: young and old, foolhardy and cautious—optimistic and resigned. Neither is right or better. On screen, Christopher may seem the more heroic character, but his recklessness comes with a price. At least he doesn't die in vain.

Endnote: Image from OutNow!, video
from YouTube. Click here for part two.

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