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Southern writer Flannery O'Connor's first novel, "Wise Blood," made it to the big screen in 1979. The John Huston directed, low budget feature was widely praised and then practically forgotten.
O'Connor was a devout Catholic. She was also battling lupus, the sometimes debilitating immune disorder. Both factors may have colored her novel. Huston was a devout atheist. His world view certainly nuanced the tone of the film.
The story concerns a somewhat troubled, perhaps damaged, youth, Hazel Motes (Brad Dourif). Just out of the army and son of a fire and brimstone Pentecostal preacher, Motes is determined to open the first Church Withouth Christ in Taulkinham, Tennessee.
A young Brad Dourif is brilliant as the driven, vexed, Motes. There's not a false note or a wasted frame. His is a journey of spiritual self-exploration, penance and perhaps redemption. O'Connor's curiosity about the southern brand of Pentecostal mind set is riveting on film. Motes is trying to shed the damage of his ferocious religious childhood, but cannot shed his spirituality. He finds he's a Christian in spite of himself.
Supporting actors Harry Dean Stanton, Amy Wright, Ned Beatty, William Hickey and Dan Shor are all spot on.
The frisson between director Huston's disdain for religion and O'Connor's devoutness is a perfect match. The screenplay by brothers Benedict and Michael Fitzgerald does not stray from the core events, tone and ideas of O'Connor's story.
The obviously lower budget production, shot mostly in Macon, Georgia of the late 1970s, does not really detract, even though the novel is set in a somewhat earlier period.Read more ›
As the beginning credits roll we are treated to a series of beautiful black and white photographs which serve as evocations of an older America but one that in some ways still exists and lives on in the old run-down parts of town and in the old run-down neighborhoods even as a new America tries to re-invent itself and erase its ties to its sin-soaked past. Wise Blood is about American history and identity in a time of national crisis, but Huston does not emphasize the Vietnam War as the source of this crisis, rather he underplays it and instead chooses to focus simply on a lack of a substantive vision (religious, artistic, or otherwise) to lend coherence to the chaos that is America not just in the seventies but in all times and places.Read more ›
While it might not match the majesty of the novel, what possibly could?
Hazel Motes is an angry SOB who is determined to prove to the world that Jesus Christ is a sham. More than that, he's out to destroy anyone who claims that Christ is indeed the Way, the Truth and the Life; he has all the maniacal zeal of a debauched decadent damning himself into sainthood.
There are frequent flashbacks to Hazel's childhood, sitting in backwoods barns and hearing about hellfire and damnation from a tall, ugly, and sinister Pentecostal preacher played by none other than director John Huston. This man was Mote's Grandfather and he was so terrifying that in one scene young Hazel urinates all over the place.
He encounters all manner of evil and corruption as he bashes heads trying to become *the* only preacher in the South (not likely). Encountering frauds, tricksters, and money hungry snake oil salesmen, the worst is perhaps Ned Beatty and his companion Asa Hawks (Harry Dean Stanton). Not only do they plagiarize Hazel's demented sermons, given on the tops of cars and random streetcorners, they dare to do so for money, which really pisses Hazel off. And Brad Dourif playing Hazel Motes--well, you wouldn't want to piss either of them off.
In reality, behind his Protestant-atheist disguise, this man is a "Jesus Hog" as the daughter of the "Blind Preacher" calls him, and a penitent in the making. Even his treatment of his insane, monkey suit donning young friend is only another manifestation of Catholicism's burning flame drawing him near like a demented moth. And he crashes on that flame, quite badly. This is recommended for anyone who still concernes themselves with O' Connor's work and that raggedy, shadowy beggar who lurks in the trees and everywhere else. Really sick and really pure.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love this book, it is so funny! Hazel Motes spends his entire life trying to get away from Jesus. Read morePublished 14 days ago by J. Kemp
Very powerful adaption of Flannery O'Connor's 1952 novel. In the first hour I began to realize Hazel Motes was so angered and fed up with society. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Bruce P. Reinhard
A movie worth a second, even a third look. Dourff is outstanding, wish there was more interaction with Harry Dean Stanton's character. Read morePublished 3 months ago by MICHAEL A ROWLAND SR
Great book and great film. Must read. It is a classic. It toys with the idea of identity and personal agency. Read morePublished 3 months ago by typhanie
Brad Dourif makes a great Hazel Motes. The supporting cast is excellent all around. If you like quirky, Southern characters and atmosphere you should enjoy this adaptation of... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Bill Lower
Interesting movie. Really show the power of Flannery O'Connor to develop characters.Published 3 months ago by Eppy Seppanen
I was worried that this movie wouldn't have been as strange and amazing and the story, and it may have surpassed it.Published 4 months ago by AO
A really strange Southern Gothic movie. Brad Dourif character is really intense. A wild ride for sure!Published 7 months ago by Bohn C. Butler