Sunday, February 10, 2013

King of the Hill

Steven Soderbergh's 1993 film came to mind one night out of the blue; perhaps as a result of thinking about economic things, since it is a "depression era film". I had watched it back in the late 90's and remembered that the film had a certain haunting vividness about that era, through the structure of the film itself and its central character, rather than through setting or costume (or Mise en scène); a memoir realness, like you had entered into the memory of someone else, or like catching the sudden breath of another person's memory; something about that era evoked from the inside out, unlike any other film with that type of setting.

Of Mice and Men, Cinderella Man, Places in the Heart, O Brother Where Art Thou?, The Color Purple, Fried Green Tomatoes...and on and on: some are really good at it, but all of them wear the "depression era" like a well-worn vocabulary. None of them has the touch that King of the Hill has, which, by the looks of it, did not have a lavish production, and again, certainly does not rely on the trappings of that era for expressing the feeling of that era.

I'm glad that it did come to mind, because I searched for it on youtube and found it in full. I watched it and was amazed at how good the film is. I also was not surprised to learn that the film is indeed based on someone's memoirs of that era as a child: those of writer A.E. Hotchner, whose memoir of his friendship with Hemingway I remember reading.

Aaron is a very smart boy who does wily things and lies (to avoid the humiliation of his position) and steals (the sandwich of a rich fat kid during lunch at school); but his heart is larger. He uses the precious coins he's earned to buy a kitten for the sick girl in the room down the hall. He is a kid in the midst of a million lives in harsh transition, and whenever is this not the case in every age? His tale brings one to the conclusion we must all draw: everything is going to pass away - riches, monuments, everything; and the things that are eternally substantial, that are immutable, that will count for anything, are our acts of love.

I highly recommend watching it. Part 1 of the youtube film can be found here.

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