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Brando's REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE (1967)

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TCM aired this film late last night/early this morning. I'd seen it before but parts of it seemed confusing. Today I rewatched it, some of it without sound, because I wanted to get a deeper understanding of Huston's visuals. I was completely mesmerized. I think this is probably one of the best Hollywood films of the late 1960s. 

 

A lot of great risk-taking, performances that work whether played straight or otherwise-- and the highpoint is the subtle eroticism (both hetero & non-hetero) that trumps some of the more obvious statements.

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Risk-taking is right. Doing this kind of film was a risk in itself, but the setting of a Southern military base really upped the stakes, since the war in Vietnam was well underway in 1967 and emotions were high all across the country (and world). I agree that some of it was and is confusing and I've always meant to read the original, but never have. Brando came under fire for his dithering Fletcher Christian in "Mutiny on the Bounty" (which I liked) and you can see some of that again in this character. I'm fascinated by your idea of watching it without sound, because so much of what Brando did to reveal his character was non-verbal, playing off the character's quirks and personal vanity. Elizabeth was a casting bullseye and you can see how playing Martha in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" helped her feel her way into this somewhat kindred, yet also very different characterization. She seemed to relish giving vulgarity a human form and it's too bad she wasn't this perfectly cast more often. Julie Harris broke my heart, as always, and Brian Keith was rock steady as the confused but emotionally available everyman who helped us see our way into the story of these messy lives. The character of Anaclaito (sp?) reprsented something unseen previously in American movies, the elevated status of a "sacred" gay man, accepted in Native American culture and some other cultures around the world, but NEVER in Twentieth Century America. I love that you've highlighted this film. It may be somewhat of a hot mess but, as you said, it takes risks and manages to capture some "reflections" of life which escape the eye of many moviemakers.

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Risk-taking is right. Doing this kind of film was a risk in itself, but the setting of a Southern military base really upped the stakes, since the war in Vietnam was well underway in 1967 and emotions were high all across the country (and world). I agree that some of it was and is confusing and I've always meant to read the original, but never have. Brando came under fire for his dithering Fletcher Christian in "Mutiny on the Bounty" (which I liked) and you can see some of that again in this character. I'm fascinated by your idea of watching it without sound, because so much of what Brando did to reveal his character was non-verbal, playing off the character's quirks and personal vanity. Elizabeth was a casting bullseye and you can see how playing Martha in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" helped her feel her way into this somewhat kindred, yet also very different characterization. She seemed to relish giving vulgarity a human form and it's too bad she wasn't this perfectly cast more often. Julie Harris broke my heart, as always, and Brian Keith was rock steady as the confused but emotionally available everyman who helped us see our way into the story of these messy lives. The character of Anaclaito (sp?) reprsented something unseen previously in American movies, the elevated status of a "sacred" gay man, accepted in Native American culture and some other cultures around the world, but NEVER in Twentieth Century America. I love that you've highlighted this film. It may be somewhat of a hot mess but, as you said, it takes risks and manages to capture some "reflections" of life which escape the eye of many moviemakers.

You're right, Dougie-- so much to say about this film, one hardly knows where to begin. I like that you have framed this discussion back on Vietnam which I neglected to do, because as you said, it certainly does up the stakes. I am going to have to read up on Carson McCullers' background, because I figured she must have lived on military bases the way she and Huston so perfectly capture the essence of it, where personal and professional lives (and war itself) are often quite messy. 

 

I agree about Elizabeth Taylor and Julie Harris who simply turn in some of the best work they've ever done. The last glimpse of Harris smoking at the table is a rather haunting image-- combining melancholy, willful determination and ultimate resignation to her fate. 

 

You nailed it about the character of Anticlato, and I am glad our storytellers did not downplay his role or sideline him too much. He remains relevant to the basic plot. It certainly is interesting after his wife is gone that Brian Keith's character misses the Filipino servant and wants him back. Also, did you see that in the ending, there is a quick shot of Keith's character in the doorway? I had missed that the first time.

 

As I said earlier, the eroticism is the highpoint of this film. My favorite scene is the one where Brando's character goes into the barracks and Robert Forster is lying in bed. It is like he knows Brando has come inside, and without turning his back he gets up and puts his shoes on. Brando then leaves and Forster soon leaves, too. It seems like a mating ritual. Of course, any homoerotic reading that can be given this moment is almost cancelled out soon after, when we see the soldier's ritual involves Brando's wife. And Brando's response to that is devastating. 

 

What I think Huston is doing here is that he is setting up multiple readings. Some cancel each other out, but others support a thesis of complex polyamorous relationships on base. Such juicy stuff.

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The original novel is a lot more bizarre- if this were remade today - the gay angle would be a lot more explicit- but the politically correct police would probably be outraged specially by Anacleto

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The original novel is a lot more bizarre- if this were remade today - the gay angle would be a lot more explicit- but the politically correct police would probably be outraged specially by Anacleto

Right, that part would be toned down or else removed entirely and replaced with a more neutral servant-type role. Today's filmmakers would try and avoid the stereotype. 

 

Which working director today do you think could do a remake justice? I'd pick Ang Lee.

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Right, that part would be toned down or else removed entirely and replaced with a more neutral servant-type role. Today's filmmakers would try and avoid the stereotype. 

 

Which working director today do you think could do a remake justice? I'd pick Ang Lee.

 

I admit to having no clue what type of man this is;  "elevated status of a "sacred" gay man, accepted in Native American culture and some other cultures around the world, but NEVER in Twentieth Century America".

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I admit to having no clue what type of man this is;  "elevated status of a "sacred" gay man, accepted in Native American culture and some other cultures around the world, but NEVER in Twentieth Century America".

We studied these kinds of roles in a social anthropology class I took years ago in college. Usually it's a non-sexual teacher type, and all cultures (even 20th and 21st Century American cultures) have them. They don't marry, they are considered a noble class-- they are sort of like eunuchs. Religions that have priests not allowed to marry or be sexual promote these types of roles in modern society. 

 

So it's not exactly a Native American thing, but in the tribal cultures, it was more clearly defined. And exalted (respected). They performed a function, but the key function could not be to recreate. My own personal interpretation of that is some of these "holy" cultures consider homosexuality a sin or an aberration, so to deal with gay orientation without condoning it, they create this separate weirdly acceptable category to place these people in...but it comes at great personal sacrifice for the individuals labeled in such a way.

 

I hope I have made sense explaining this. Obviously not every priest or non-sexual teacher has a gay orientation but many who do have such an orientation and want to maintain holiness "fall" into this role. 

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Right, that part would be toned down or else removed entirely and replaced with a more neutral servant-type role. Today's filmmakers would try and avoid the stereotype. 

 

Which working director today do you think could do a remake justice? I'd pick Ang Lee.

You would need a director who is good at sexual repression - I would do it as period piece not in modern times- I don't think you could remove Anacleto completly - he might not be less grotesque- not sure about the director but Channing Tatum would be my  choice for the soldier love object. 

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You would need a director who is good at sexual repression - I would do it as period piece not in modern times- I don't think you could remove Anacleto completly - he might not be less grotesque- not sure about the director but Channing Tatum would be my  choice for the soldier love object. 

Interesting. I am not familiar with Channing Tatum. Or maybe if the remake didn't happen for another ten or fifteen years, there would likely be new eye candy in Hollywood to cast as the objet d'amore. LOL

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Interesting. I am not familiar with Channing Tatum. Or maybe if the remake didn't happen for another ten or fifteen years, there would likely be new eye candy in Hollywood to cast as the objet d'amore. LOL

The charming Mr Tatum is the star of "Magic Mike"- and yes he does look good in and out of uniform

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The charming Mr Tatum is the star of "Magic Mike"- and yes he does look good in and out of uniform

 

Just goes to show that 'to each his own' is a worthwhile saying.  Because I can't think of a current actor that is less charming, or more boring or with less talent than Tatum.   

 

BUT,  my wife does like how he dances.    Of course he doesn't have to say any lines while doing so.

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The charming Mr Tatum is the star of "Magic Mike"- and yes he does look good in and out of uniform

I still don't know who he is. And I've never heard of MAGIC MIKE. Is it a movie? 

 

Like I said, in ten years there will be a new flash in the pan who would be able to play in a remake of REFLECTIONS.

 

But remember, the soldier/object is not a starring role. In fact, he has significantly less screen time than the other leads.

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Mr Tatum can be funny, is a good dancer and doesn't take himself too seriously- he will next appear in the Coen Brothers "Hail Caesar" a comedy set in an MGM like studio during Hollywood's golden age.

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Just goes to show that 'to each his own' is a worthwhile saying.  Because I can't think of a current actor that is less charming, or more boring or with less talent than Tatum.   

Ryan Reynolds comes to mind.

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Ryan Reynolds comes to mind.

 

Can't argue with that,  but since Ryan married Scarlett Johansson I cut him some slack.

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I don't even know who Ryan Reynolds is...LOL Obviously, we are no longer talking about golden age movie stars. Or golden eye reflections. :)

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I don't even know who Ryan Reynolds is...LOL Obviously, we are no longer talking about golden age movie stars. Or golden eye reflections. :)

 

Yea, sorry I helped derail this thread.    I saw the TCM promo for the film and I really wanted to see it but I missed it.   Hopefully TCM will show it in the future.  

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Yea, sorry I helped derail this thread.    I saw the TCM promo for the film and I really wanted to see it but I missed it.   Hopefully TCM will show it in the future.  

Nice save. :) Personally, I am not one of those types who insists a thread stay exactly on-topic. I've always been more interested in active threads that in some way, shape or form devote themselves to classic film. I seldom have a thread stay under a thousand views, and usually that is because I encourage film-related ideas to evolve. In this case, we were talking about who might work in a remake of Huston's film. 

 

And though I was being humorous, I really do not keep on the newer actors. My preference is toward the stars of yesteryear.

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I doubt this will be remade as movie but I can see it as play....Ryan Reynolds is better at comedy...actually that role would not be cast with a star just some good looking guy

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I doubt this will be remade as movie but I can see it as play....Ryan Reynolds is better at comedy...actually that role would not be cast with a star just some good looking guy

Right, that's what I said a few posts back. The soldier is a minor character who just pops up at key intervals. Hardly a main character or starring role. It would have to be done by some good looking dude who was still breaking into the movies. Someone on their way to stardom but not quite there yet. It's a role that make people notice the actor in it. But it's not a role that would be done by an established name.

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