Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Walk the Line is about as good a biopic as you could reasonably expect. Its textbook narrative structure (challenge-failure-triumph) has limitations, but it's exciting and entertaining to watch. I don't quibble much about the lost nuance, the conflations or the hmm-not-so-sure-about-that moments because they are unavoidable and sometimes desirable when you're juggling infinite possibility with finite resources.

So Johnny reworked a Gordon Jenkins song into Folsom Prison Blues and June co-wrote Ring of Fire with Merle Kilgore, in the film the tormented artist labours in solitude to paint their masterpieces -- as it should be for the fable to make any sense. Vivian Liberto Cash possibly gets short shrift but she's not the shrew I was expecting from reading many reviews, Johnny treats her like a bastard and when she packs up the kids and splits the audience is most likely thinking, "about bloody time!" She's a cipher but J.R's corruption needs to be absolute, and in 25 Words or Less. His dad Ray comes off far worse which suprised me, but under the influence of Johnny and June's love which makes all things new, even he finds a place. Actually, my major reservation was that the Johnny in the film lacks some of the gravitas(not.the.right.word) synonomous with him, an uncommitted viewer might be left thinking, "so he's cool, but what's the big deal with this bloke?" If they're worthy of the knowledge, they'll find out I guess.

My personal preference is for a film like Derek Jarman's Wittgenstein or the upcoming Todd Haynes film about Bob Dylan, which give up the pretense that a life can be properly captured as a series of "and then this happened" scenes. But in a big movie that's just not going to happen. Deal. Move on, and judge the film on its own terms.

Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are freaking amazing and the musical scenes (several songs in their entirety) will knock you off your feet. There are some nice payoffs for fans too: the Elvis bit, the Jerry Lee bits, the Waylon bit, the Dylan mentions. The scene where Johnny with Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant("a couple of mechanics who can't even play") audition for Sam Phillips is epic. In Phoenix's introduction of Folsom Prison Blues, the boy J.R grows into the man Johnny Cash in front of your eyes.

So that's the film. The definitive, or even an adequate , Flop Eared Mule post on Johnny Cash won't ever be written, at least not by me. It's far beyond my powers to articulate, even to myself and until the launch of Google Soul which allows users a direct link into my emotional mainframe (I shudder to think what the carefully targeted ads would be), you won't ever know it. I've found my level being a gushy fangirl and I don't mind wallowing in banality even over Dylan, who holds up the other half of the sky, but not Cash.

No comments: