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It is always a challenge when film makers attempt to bring a substantial novel to the screen. Look at the examples of "Les Miserables", "War and Peace" and "Moby Dick" to evidence this. No film in fairness would have the time to embroider the rich tapestries that these books contain within the limited medium of film. Often they are heroic but ultimately doomed attempts. So it is with "Sometimes a Great Notion" at a running time of just under two hours. Paul Newman the director is unable to develop characters and sub plots that make Ken Kesey's novel of that name so rich a read. This book is now available as a Penguin Classic which is an indication of its status. In fairness it is probably a better book than his much better known "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest". But having said this it should also be said that this film falls into the "brave effort" category and contains much that makes it worth watching.
I first watched the film as part of a film studies course not long after it was first released under the title of "Never Give an Inch", which was the much quoted family motto. It was also the title I preferred and set the tone of the film. Although I knew at the time that it was not a great film, I had to admit to myself that it had made an impression, and that there were scenes from it that stuck in the memory. So when the opportunity came to buy the DVD I grabbed it. The story is set in the rugged and beautiful state of Oregon. The Stamper family headed by patriarch Henry, played by Henry Fonda, and helped by his two sons Hank played by Paul Newman, and Joe Ben played by Richard Jaekel, are independent loggers in the local community of Wakonda. When the local union call a strike against a large lumber conglomerate the Stamper's just keep working as they have always done, despite the protestations of the entire community. Things begin to get nasty when logging machinery is deliberately destroyed. Matters are also complicated by the arrival of Henry's youngest son and Hank's half brother Leland, played by Michael Sarrazin. Leland comes with a history that brings discord into the family relationships. We build to a climax. Will the family be able to fulfil their contractual agreement and deliver four rafts of timber against the wishes of the community?
The film benefits from being made on location in Oregon. Some of the outdoor scenes are extremely good and Newman shows a sure hand in the action scenes. Newman himself is shown realistically in the thick of things, and although you know you are watching Hollywood actors trying to be tough loggers they come across pretty well. Henry Fonda is excellent as always in an idiosyncratic role that he enjoyed. It is strange to hear such oaths coming from his usually very pure mouth. The surprise though was Richard Jaekel an under rated actor who was superb in his role. He is particularly memorable in the harrowing scene where Newman tries to save him from drowning. He was deservedly nominated for an oscar but lost out to Ben Johnson in "The Last Picture Show". I guess he can't have had too many complaints there! A mention should also be made of that very pretty and resourceful actress Lee Remick, who is also very good as Hank's disillusioned wife. The lauded composer Henry Mancini provided an excellent country score that seemed to be in tune with the time and place. It was interesting to note that the two brilliant directors Sam Peckinpah and Budd Boetticher were keen to make this film. I wonder if they would have fared any better?
At the end of the day despite the fact that the film is unable to develop characters, we do get a flavour of Kesey's anarchic black humour. Especially in the films final scene which is particularly strong and also very funny. The sort of humour you would find in that very treacly dark comedy TV series "The League of Gentlemen". The film is enjoyable to watch if ultimately a little hollow, but life with the Stamper family is never dull! A film that is certainly worth watching if you have never done so. A rather generous four stars for the brave attempt. Recommended.
Newman and Fonda match up well as leaders of a tough small business logging firm. Decent plot , solid cast and good acting. Worthwhile two hour journey to a small town environment that too few people have had a chance to live in. I recommend it and my teenage grand children enjoyed it.
Perhaps it was the specific disk I bought, but if this is a remastered video they didn't pay attention to audio copying, the sound was at times weak and/or distorted, so the "fiddling with the volume remote control" kicks in several times during two hours.
Der Film entstand 1971 unter der Regie von Paul Newman, der auch die Hauptrolle, Hank Stamper, spielte. In dem Holzfällercamp sehen wir die Stamper-Familie, bestehend aus Hank (Paul Newman), Henry (Henry Fonda), Jo Ben Stamper (Richard Jaeckel), Leeland Stamper (Michael Sarrazin), Viv und Jan Stamper (Lee Remick und Linda Lawson), Andy und John Stamper (Cliff Potts und Sam Gilman). Die Dreharbeiten wurden in Washington und Oregon durchgeführt. Henry Stamper wurde bereits bei den Fällarbeiten schwer am Brustkorb verletzt, aber das Pech bleibt ihm treu und es gibt einen noch tragischeren Unfall. Zur allgemeinen Überraschung findet auch Leeland Stamper (Michael Sarrazin) den Weg ins das Camp. Die körperlich schweren Arbeiten werden noch zusätzlich von dem Ärger mit Gewerkschaftsangehörigen belastet, die einen Streik forcieren wollen. Dann verunglückt auch noch der junge Joe Ben tödlich. Die Frauen sind schockiert. Aber Hank Stamper denkt nicht daran aufzuhören. Irgendwie ist dieser Film für den Zuschauer unbefriedigend. Es wäre vielleicht besser gekommen, wenn ein renommierter Regisseur die Kontrolle gehabt hätte. Es war zunächst auch ein Spielleiter vorgesehen, mit dem sich Paul Newman allerdings zerstritt. So bleibt ein Blick auf die Knochenarbeit der Männer und auf die Baumriesen, die die Wälder Washingtons bedecken und schwer zu fällen sind. Das Bildformat ist 16:9 Technicolor, der Ton DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Sprachen Deutsch und Englisch. Als Bonus gibt es den Originaltrailer und eine Bildergalerie.
Allein vom ungewöhnlichen Handlungsumfeld kann der Film nicht leben, zumal die prominente Besetzung weit unter ihren Möglichkeiten bleibt. Und da auch die Regie (Paul Newman himself…) wenig Inspiration und Einfallsreichtum hervorbringt, plätschert die Handlung so dahin. Man fragt sich am Ende, was man da jetzt eigentlich für eine Geschichte erzählt bekam. Ich will es verraten: Gar keine. Immerhin gibt es eine erstaunlich gute Blu-ray mit der um in der deutschen Kinofassung geschnitten Szenen erweiterten Version. Insgesamt ein mittelprächtiges Vergnügen.
Der Film ist gut und spannend, was dabei nervt ist, dass mal wieder die deutsche Synchronisation einfach aussetzt und dafür zwar deutsche Untertitel eingeblendet werden, das aber doof ist, weil man den Film ja eben auf deutsch sehen möchte und nicht halb lesen will. Schade denn die Story ist super und Paul Newman in Hochform.
Based on the book by Ken Kesey, this is an engaging and pretty accurate depiction of a logging community in the Pacific Northwest. Henry Fonda and Paul Newman portray a lumberjack machismo that would be easily recognized by anyone who knows that culture.