February 22, 2013

Cool Hand Luke

Stuart Rosenberg, 1967


“Cool Hand Luke” is sort of like having that friend that has a good sense of humor, and then you meet his father and he’s hilarious and you think to yourself: “Oh, THIS is where it came from!”. Without Cool Hand, there would be no “Oh Brother Where Art Thou”. I assume that the Coen Brothers were certainly inspired by this film. It is a somewhat-warm prison film... basically the Anti-Shawshank. The scenery is full of golden sun filled skies and the landscape with lush willow trees. There is a sense of comradery among the prisoners, and they are not threatening. I was thinking to myself: “Wow, this camp doesn’t seem all THAT bad”. I mean sure, there are long work days involved... but if “A Prophet” taught us anything, it taught us it could be a LOT worse.

Luke is an ambiguous, resilient character. He is a non-conformist. He is a lost person in the opening scene. He is confused, not really sure what he wants to do with his life. The irony is he constantly wants to escape this prison (even though its only a two year sentence) which at least would provide him some sense of structure. But he’s clearly not looking for structure. He’s looking for something else. A notable scene in the film is when hes playing cards with one of the other prisoners. He recklessly continues to bluff his hand until he finally has to show it, and he was running with nothing. This is one his characteristics: run head first into the situation, abandoning any fear of a negative outcome (ie. boxing scene). Luke is clearly looking for answers, and he didn't feel he was going to find them inside of those prison walls.

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