Scare­crow 1973

Directed by Jerry Schatzberg and written by Garry Michael White, this is a buddy/road movie aiming to be classic Amer­icana; and even if it doesn’t quite get there, it still has some consid­er­able clout due to the contri­bu­tions of Gene Hackman and Al Pacino.

Max (Hackman), an ex-con who dreams of opening a carwash, meets Lionel on the road (Pacino), a sailor trav­el­ling to visit the child he’s never seen. This unlikely pair – who could be straight out of a Stein­beck novel – become part­ners and journey together.

Max is aggressive and suspi­cious of everyone. Lionel has a sweet nature and an indi­vidual way of seeing the world. In a typical exchange, he tries to convince Max that crows are not scared of scare­crows: “Look, the farmer puts out a scare­crow, right, with a funny hat on it, got a funny face. The crows fly by, they see that it strikes ’em funny, makes ’em laugh”

Deep Char­acter: unrav­el­ling the layers

In this scene, the two char­ac­ters have just been released from prison where Lionel was badly beaten up for resisting a homo­sexual advance. Up to this point, Max has stub­bornly resisted all of Lionel’s attempts to get him to open up and be less hostile.

It is a turning point in the story –  if Max can’t change, it’s likely that the part­ner­ship will break up. In a nicely judged reversal, Max shows that he can change by doing a symbolic strip routine – liter­ally peeling away his protective layers.

David Clough ©2011

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