Re: RARA-AVIS: To Live and Die in L.A.

Date: 01 Oct 2001

In a message dated 10/1/01 9:34:55 AM, writes:

<< I've never liked the film. Or actually, I don't know what to think of it. It's visually stunning and fast-moving, but then, as always in Friedkin's films, the emotions and the intellectual concerns leave me cold. The movie is contradictory at least and it never decides whether the William Petersen character is a hero or not. To me he is just a boring macho with a mission, but the movie never seems to notice that there could (and probably should, too) be criticism pointed toward him. He's criticized at first, but then he gets away as a hero in the
(unintentionally funny) ending.

    I've always believed the main theme of the film is that Defoe's "bad guy" and Peterson's "good guy" were morally indistinguishable. Both are interesting and fascinating to watch, but neither is a hero except in the Sam Spade sense. (Someone kills your partner, you have to hunt them down.) The only semi-heroic figure in the film is Peterson's partner, whose name (for those who need extra assistance with their symbols) is Hart.
    Most of the parallels between them were drawn with as trowel rather than a brush. (For instance both men were named variations of Richard, one is named Masters and the other Chance to identify their personalities) and as the story evolves it becomes clear that both live entirely by their own rules, both exploit their male and female associates (and are exploited in return) and both care only about winning the game. Both men are amoral cowboys -- and both could have easily been cell mates or adversaries of Doc McCoy. I saw the film as hard-boiled through and through and one of Friedkin's best.

                                        Jim Blue

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