For Reel

Wind Across the Everglades (1958)
March 20, 2016, 5:15 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , ,

Director: Nicolas Ray & Budd Schulberg
4 Stars
Wind Across the EvergladesBoth Jonathan Rosenbaum and Chris Fujiwara have referred to Wind Across the Everglades as a “litmus test for auteurists”, the assumption being that only those who are able of contextualizing the film within Nicholas Ray’s oeuvre will find it satisfactory. That seems awfully harsh for what is a fascinating curiosity–a sort of gonzo eco-thriller, featuring a memorable performance by Burl Ives as Cottonmouth, a poacher who rules the swamp. Ray’s flamboyant use of color is memorable, with the swamps themselves illustrated with lush greenery contrasted with the impossibly blue skies. Much of the film is shot at sunset, giving a golden hue to the characters and suggesting the dreamy, almost purgatorial beauty of the swamp. The extent of Ray’s involvement with the picture is debatable–in his penultimate film, this is the first in which he was by all accounts entirely debilitated, both emotionally and from substance abuse, and was eventually fired from the production and not invited to have any say in the editing of the picture. Some of the narrative elements and montages feel choppy, but the awkward cutting in the shots of the animals serves to amplify the sense of the primal, lawless food chain. What makes Ives, in particular, so memorable is that he not only is the top of said food chain, but has a respect for the swamp–he knows this place will be the death of him. Ray wasn’t one to short-change his villains, and Cottonmouth is given a certain grace, typified in the narrative by the conservationist’s (Christopher Plummer) growing sense of respect for him (and vice versa).

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