Sunday, January 03, 2010
cinema obscura: John Frankenheimer's "The Fixer" (1968)
By all appearances, a noteworthy "prestige" production - made by MGM in the late-'60s, when the studio was having one of its many tumultuous periods - has evaporated: John Frankenheimer's splendid version of Bernard Malamud's "The Fixer," starring Alan Bates in the title role.
Adapted with fidelity by Dalton Trumbo (the '50s blacklisted writer who returned to the scene via Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus," thanks to the intervention of star Kirk Douglas), "The Fixer" stars Oscar nominee Bates as Yakov Bog, a peasant Russian-Jewish handyman who becomes a victim of anti-Semitism in Czarist Russia when he's charged with a crime that he did not commit - the "ritual murder" of a Gentile child in Klev.
The film vividly traces his journey from pariah to eventual hero, detailing the tortures, indignities and humiliations that Yakov suffers along the way.
Frankenheimer gives himself over to this alien milieu with his usual artistic and humanistic abandon, offering a masterfully mordant exploration of what it takes to live and survive. Abetting him are sterling (and stirring) performances from a varied, top-notch cast - Elizabeth Hartman, Hugh Griffith, Georgia Brown, Dirk Bogarde, Ian Holm, Carol White, David Opatoshu, Murray Melvin, David Warner and, of course, Alan Bates.
Posted by joe baltake at 10:30 AM