Monday, June 22, 2009

review: pickup

When I was a little kid I (obviously) watched a lot of late-night cable TV. This was the late '70s and early '80s, and at this point there was more demand than supply, so cable channels bought up pretty much whatever programming they could scrounge to fill the late-night hours. To give you a good example, Nickelodeon had a show where they literally showed panels of a comic book, one by one (with snazzy screen wipes) while Wagner played in the background. Weekend late night tv was my jam, and my favorite non-KOTD show by far was Night Flight (when it was on USA, not the repackaged ABC version), but we also had HBO and Skinemax (at least for a while; our premium movie channels varied depending on what deals the cable company was running at the time). The rule my parents had was we could watch R rated movies as long as one of them watched it with us. This was a good policy; if we really wanted to check something out we could do it (this was how I got to see Alien when I was ten) but prepubescent shame kept us from watching softcore with the parents. Of course, that didn't keep me from flipping around those channels after everyone else had gone to bed; Night Flight was on from eleven pm until (I think) four am, just late enough that I could catch a few hours sleep and wake up in time for cartoons and Kung Fu Theater the next morning. I've forgotten most of the films I saw in this taboo format, the sound turned waaaay down and constant glances over my shoulder to make sure someone wasn't coming down the stairs, but a few still float around my subconscious, sneaking into dreams long after I've forgotten they ever existed. At least, unless I stumble across them on some sketchy torrent site.

Pickup (there's a dvd available) is a 1975 drive-in movie about a guy driving a minihome through Florida who picks up two female hitchhikers. They get high, have sex (a lot), get stuck in the swamp and wander around, having flashbacks about traumatic experiences they had when children. It's 1975, so you know the ending is gonna be a bummer, and it has a half-cooked film student feel, so there's all kinds of wowie-zowie freakouts. The whole thing has an air of a bunch of people who saw Easy Rider, thought it would be trippy to make a movie and had access to a bus, so if you're big on production values or you need to know what everything *means* you're not gonna like it. That said, there's a lot going for it: it's druggy soft-focus blur from start to finish, a lot of the soundtrack could be Boards of Canada b-sides, there's a cyclical Tarot-based recursion in the movie that most people probably hate but I dig, and the two female leads are absolutely beautiful (and the nudity is total pre-surgery '70s action, which is where it's at). Of course, seeing it now is a lot different from seeing it when I was a little kid, since it's not anything like the softcore (or like the movies in general) I was used to, and I'd spent enough summer vacations in the minihome that the idea that *this could be my life* hit me like a diamond bullet. I was also a Catholic kid, and one of the flashbacks shows that angle in a squirmy and not very flattering light, which didn't relate to anything personally but definitely tied in with my feelings of unease as to ritual. I should also mention that the first women I remember having a crush on were my CCD teachers, Immaculate Conception high school students who could have stepped out of a Judee Sill song, with their acoustic guitars and unrequited crushes on Jesus, smelling like Pantene and Camels and incense, and I suspect it's not entirely a coincidence that those girls bear a striking resemblance to the two women in this movie. Which is a long way of saying that seeing this again, decades after having forgotten all about it, really put the zap on me, and it's likely that I'll have to write about it some more later on.

No comments:

Post a Comment