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Archive for the ‘George Dzundza’ Category

Streamers

04 Apr

Streamers – directed by Robert Altman. Drama. Six soldiers search and weigh their sexuality. 113 minutes Color 1983

★★★★★

Robert Altman became known and remained successful for big cast movies such as M.A.S.H., Nashville, HealtH, Gosford Park, Short Cuts, Ready-To-Wear, and A Wedding. He is less well known for his filming of stage plays.

These are not records of stage productions, although sometimes they involve the original casts and usually involve small casts. They are renderings of the theatre pieces, but are as a rule shot on sets made and lit for filming. If you like Altman’s touch and are interested to witness the sort of performances actors rejoiced to be able to achieve in his pictures, then (apart from  Beyond Therapy, which he confessed not to relate to), these stage versions are entertainments well worth your attention: Secret Honor, A Prairie Home Companion, The Company are some of them.

Another is Come Back To The Five And Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, which was a big hit on the stage where he directed it and because Cher was in it and because it concerned itself with the last days of James Dean and maybe also because it dealt with cross-gender. The cast was brought over into the movie and it was an even bigger hit. Immediately after it was made, Altman filmed David Raab’s Streamers.

Various descriptions of this film refer to it as a Vietnam War piece, which is strange, since its subject from beginning to end is homosexuality. It takes place in a sparsely inhabited barracks where three rookies in the Air Force await their next assignment, which might be Vietnam. Around them cavort their sergeant and his comrade in arms on an epic bender.

The three men are young and their concern is their sexual relations to one another, but they are too young and too callow to do anything more than approach the subject and circle around it. Is that guy who is so fey actually a sexually active homosexual, or is he putting on a show? Is that other man, or is he not, willing for me to broach the topic of my feelings for him? What does it meant that I am so homophobic?

Playwright David Rabe has captured a perfect moment in the career of male sexual identity: the inchoate moment. All these young men seem to be virgins, unwittingly announcing their inexperience by the center fold pinups inside the doors of their lockers. None of them wish to be labeled as queer. They may wish to dabble. They all are curious. They are all afraid of being labeled, and they are also afraid of being curious.

The force-field of these tensions build to a point of ignition which is set off in all three acts by the intrusion of a black madman in their midst, someone crazed by his self-pity for his doom as unemployable and unlovable. The explosion ensuing is stunning.

The cast won the Golden Lion at The Venice Film Festival. I give it a Golden Lion here.

 

 
 
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