Sunday, January 11, 2009


Insomniac's Theater: Mountains of the Moon

I've always liked the movie director, Bob Rafelson, from his first movie, the mildly distrubing Monkee movie Head through the excellent Five Easy Pieces and The King of Marvin Gardens to the less successfuItalicl Stay Hungry and The Postman Always Rings Twice. I stopped watching his movies at The Mountains of the Moon, not because it was a bad movie, on the contrary, but because he quit making them pretty much after that; he did a lot of TV with a marginal movie from time to time.

I saw it in theatrical release during the two or so weeks it played in theaters. It was not a success but I thought it was good. I bought the DVD a while ago and played it last night. Not quite as good as I remembered it, but not at all bad. One thing wrong is the DVD is pan and scan not the very wide screen shown in theaters where the grandness of Africa (Kenya) was conveyed well. Also, there is little of consequence, ultimately, in the main friendship in the movie. Omar Shariff is in it and shines for about 20 seconds. Richard Grant is in it and an oily bugger he is. Delroy Lindo is magnificent as the slave who wears someone elses ears hanging from his. The guy who plays Theoden in Lord of the Rings, Bernard Hill, is here playing the explorer/missionary Livingston and he looks exactly the same as he does playing Theoden. The main heterosexual love interest is Fiona Shaw, more famous to us now as Aunt Petunia Dursley to Harry Potter, a thankless role. Here she is younger, full of life, big chin, English teeth, sloppy breasts and oh so sexy. Patrick Bergin has not been better, even in Patriot Games as Sir Richard Burton (Not Liz Taylor's two time husband) but the explorer and writer, one of the few non Muslims to make the Hadj and get to Mecca. What a brilliant life here minorly explored. Bergin plays Burton with a carpe diem theme (a safe route).

A more difficult role fell to Brit Iain Glen who plays the almost unknown Jack Speke, who actually was the first white man to look on the source of the Nile and know it. What is his motivation? Does he really have a sense of loyalty to Burton and to the black men who travel with him? Iain Glen did a good job but I have never seen him again in a movie. Certainly he has not been the lead or even the co-lead of a big budget film. Kind of a waste. However, Bergin never became the star he might have been in a parallel universe. Maybe this film was the anti-boost to careers.


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