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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Straw Dogs (1971)

In the rural English countryside, an American mathematician (Dustin Hoffman) has just moved into an old farmhouse with his English wife (Susan George). The local villagers appear to have a contempt for him and the local thugs blatantly make passes at his wife. In fact, the ruffians push him to his limits and eventually, the worm turns. Based on the novel THE SIEGE AT TRENCHER'S FARM by Gordon M. Williams, this is a film that intellectually you want to hate. Sam Peckinpah doesn't even attempt to conceal the film's blatant misogyny. There are only two women in the film and one is raped and the other is murdered as if being punished for their sexuality. The film's thematic elements are also troubling. Hoffman's mild mannered intellectual is looked upon with contempt for not being quite a "man" not only by the villagers but by Peckinpah himself. But the film is so brilliantly made that one can't help but eventually give oneself over to it (Pauline Kael called it a "fascist work of art"). Hoffman is superb, one of his 2 or 3 best performances. He plays it so close to the vest that we're never quite sure of his motivations. The final siege of the farmhouse is a classic of editing and tension. The excellent Oscar nominated score (the film's only nomination) is by Jerry Fielding.  With David Warner, Ken Hutchison, Peter Vaughan, Sally Thomsett and T.P. McKenna. 

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