Monday, January 4, 2016


The opening scene of Jerry Schatzberg's Scarecrow is a mostly static shot of drifters Max (Gene Hackman) and Lion (Al Pacino) trying to hitch a ride. Keenly shot by the recently departed Vlimos Zsigmond, it has the viewer wondering what's in store for these two.

Bear in mind that when Scarecrow was released, Hackman and Pacino were still relative newcomers to moviegoers. (Just the year before, Hackman won an Oscar for The French Connection, and Pacino got his big break in The Godfather.) The film further shows that not only did Hollywood get two promising stars but Hollywood was in the midst of a new film generation.

Schatzberg, who had previously worked with Pacino on The Panic in Needle Park, directs a film as more than your average road movie. It's also a character study between the two drifters. Max has his future all planned out while Lion is just going where the wind blows. Seeing the short-tempered Max and the clownish Lion interact adds to this study.

Back to Zsigmond's cinematography for a moment. Here he captures various American backdrops of the Nixon era. Like what he also did with McCabe and Mrs. Miller and The Deer Hunter, Zsigmond depicts the disillusioned American dream. (Truly we have lost one of the greats.)

Scarecrow is easily one of the most overlooked titles of the New Hollywood movement. (Possibly understandable considering the other films Hackman and Pacino did in that era.) Hopefully it'll be one that gets rediscovered in the imminent future.

My Rating: ****1/2

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