Monday, September 3, 2018

Birds of Prey

Figures in a Landscape (1970) - Losey
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Two English men are first seen running, with their hands tied behind their backs, from the relentless pursuit by a hellicopter. There is no explanation as to why or how or what. Figures in a Landscape is one of those 70s wtf movies steeped in metaphor that are gripping and hypnotizing nonetheless.

Robert Shaw (who also wrote the screenplay) along with young Malcolm McDowell, does amazing amount of cadio in an unnamed, rugged countryside (by looking at olive trees and snowy mountains at the end, my guess is Italy). After raiding a village at night, killing some villagers to steal some food, clothes and a rifle, the fugitives still find themselves the prey to the bird above. Things get more tense after Mac (Shaw) methodically shoots down one of the pilots off the copter. Now there is an army with automatic weapons pursuing their tracks along with the copter. With their visors firmly stuck in their faces, all the pursuers are silent and nameless.

Mac has no scruples about killing people but the young man is morally conflicted. Mac angrily accuses him as a hypocrite. Grinding his teeth and snarling, Mac is a great precursor to Quinn in Jaws. He even showcases his loony sense of humor when things go dire - as they are cornered in what it looks like a sugarcane field with the copter firebombing from above and angry farmers trying to put out the fire by releasing water from the irrigation dam, the duo has to resort to crawling in the muddy field surrounded by inferno. What does Mac do? He catches a little snake, waving around like a lunatic, happy as a clam.

The hellicopter serves as a dominating force - an oppressive government or a dictator, a bird of prey, toying with you from above with its absolute power until it comes in for the kill. As they approach an arbitrary border to freedom in the snowy mountain, Mac's obsession - bringing down that symbol of oppression - a copter/a shark from above, takes over, even if it means costing your life. Visceral and oddly captivating, Figures in a Landscape is a very interesting film.

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