Monday, June 13, 2005


Undertow, directed by David Gordon Green

Undertow, a masterful film about people in Georgia who would be labeled “white trash” or “trailer-park denizens” by the less-enlightened, unburdened by pressure from producers to whore for the Oscar, has been on DVD for the past couple of months now. Only recently did I get a chance to see it. Boy, it is mesmerizing.

First off, I will never again confuse Jamie Bell with Billy Elliot. Ever again. Josh Lucas trades his cuddly persona in for one that is more lethal and menacing. And violent. No, he doesn’t cross into Robert Englund territory, but he gets damn close.

The color palette of this film never leaves the brown spectrum, it seems. What little color there is, is most certainly dinged by all the dirt and grime of the characters and their locales. Watching it, I was nearly asphyxiated by the thick atmosphere of the narrative and composer Philip Glass did not make the knot in my stomach go away either. Every ten minutes I had to remind myself that this film was written and directed by David Gordon Green, the director of another excellent art-house movie, George Washington and All the Real Girls, a film that I didn’t care too much for but Roger Ebert went ga-ga over it.

Green (not related to auteur-wannabe Tom Green) is an astonishing, underpaid, unheralded revelation. Filmmakers who are fortunate to incorporate one, just one good scene in their Hollywood product get Oscar buzz. Undertow, which had a string of masterful scenes, was ignored by AMPAS. As critics will attest to here, here, here, here, here and here, Undertow was underpraised.

While it may seem like I’m Harry Knowles of fame, gushing over some art house tripe, rest assured my enthusiasm is genuine. If you can, rent it. If you can’t, remind yourself to do it when you get the chance. Undertow merits your attention.

(Thanks to, and for allowing me to link to their respective sites.)


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