Fat City (1971, dir. John Huston, USA) is the best movie I'd never heard of until last week when I saw it as part of a Jeff Bridges retrospective. A story about two amateur boxers, one man coming down, one rising, it's Taxi Driver + Rocky = brutal, but sweet-natured.
Fat City is a study in the inept tenderness of men, and the cunning of women who exist like little fur-bearing animals. I've never seen a movie that captures, as this one does, how boring real physical pain is: it's as sexy as mouth-breathing when you have a cold. Yet the film is beautiful to watch, too, with its 1970s' washed out colors and the men's unthinking grace.
Everyone is broken, and nobody can save anybody;
but they do try, as Kris Kristofferson sings over the opening credits, to help each other make it through the night.
And in their trying lies the reason you leave the theater wondering if it's OK to smile in front of other moviegoers (if you're lucky enough to see it on a big screen), instead of fingering your kidneys to see if they're bruised.
After Esther and I went to see Fat City, she requested I embroider the line Maybe we're all happy, said with unintentional humor by Billy (Stacy Keach, below left), the failed alcoholic boxer, to the up-and-coming baby Jeff Bridges. (All the humor on the part of the characters is unintentional.)
These guys are as happy as they look, but far kinder, for all the good it does them.