By train, by car, by bus, they came to Hollywood... in search of a dream.
The Day of the Locust by John Schlesinger
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Blurb: The Day of the Locust is a movie about Hollywood and its corrupting touch, about the American dream turned into a sun-drenched California nightmare. John Schlesinger and Nathanael West's Hollywood is not the glamorous "home of the stars" but a seedy world of little people, some hopeful, some despairing, all twisted by their by their own desires - from the ironically romantic artist narrator to a macho movie cowboy, a middle-aged innocent from America's heartland, and the hard-as-nails call girl would-be-star whom they all lust after. An unforgettable portrayal of a world that mocks the real and rewards the sham, turns its back on love to plunge into empty sex, and breeds a savage violence that is its own undoing, this movie stands as a classic indictment of all that is most extravagant and uncontrolled in American life.
Thoughts: John Schlesinger, director of superb dramatic cinema with a slightly surreal edge in throughout the sixties and seventies was the perfect choice to direct this Waldo Salt adaptation of the Nathanael West classic of American literature, set in Hollywoodland just prior to World War II, it depicts the alienation and desperation of a disparate group of individuals whose dreams of success have failed to come true in a daring, epic that is at times brilliant, and fills it with a series of razor edged performances, particularly that of Donald Sutherland and Oscar nominated Burgess Meredith.
Subtlety isn't the film's strong suit but the bigger than life quality is so much a part of it, and West's novel, that you accept it as part of a reality projected as fantasy style intended by the film maker which is only heightened by the intense and surreal nature of the ever growing scale of the key set pieces as the film builds to it's unforgettable finale.
It starts off very slowly, introducing you to the world of Hollywoodland in the Thirties; to Faye and her desire for wealth and fame, to her father Harry the forgotten star, to Tod the bright eyed artist, to Adore the obnoxious "child star" and Abe the angry dwarf but it builds in to something so much more via a series of unexpected and slightly surreal slice of life events. And then the climax, a sequence of events much more powerful that almost anything else I've seen from Hollywood and if you haven't read the novel really quite unexpected in it's content. As with the book until this point I was merely enjoying it but the effect the climax has on the overall reaction to the movie is incredible, making you reassess what has gone before.
This is not about the film industry or about shallow, rich people, it is so much more than that, it is about the effect of Hollywood and fame on the everyday reality of normal working class people.
John Schlesinger directed Midnight Cowboy, Billy Liar, Marathon Man, Darling and A Kind of Loving and still this one might just be the best of the lot.