Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Crying Game

"The Crying Game" (Neil Jordan, 1992) I contend this "character" study is one of "the" great love stories, as it rather scrupulously deals with "love" and doesn't stray into the sexual category.

Well, it does stray, but not too far from home.

Sure, the story surrounding the film is about "the secret," but that's just a device for setting up a story about the nature of love, and what this "crazy little thing" is, and why it holds such sway against our better judgements, even against our natures, better or otherwise. And it does so in one of the better traps a film-maker has devised for its protagonist, worthy of a
Hitchcock or a Kubrick.

When first we meet
Fergus (Stephen Rea), he's a flunkie of a foot-soldier in a radical IRA organization. He's not well-respected in the group, so he gets the job of guarding over the British soldier kidnapped for political concessions. Fergus doesn't have the spine, the bite, the drive, the Cause-fueled sociopathic energy of Maguire (Adrian Dunbar) or Jude (Miranda Richardson, as ferocious a femme fatale as has been created for the screen). And he's just not ass-hole enough to be a terrorist.

Three days of holding Jody (
Forest Whitaker) in Thatcher's non-negotiating Britain makes Fergus and the soldier form a Stockholm-ish bond. So when it comes time for Fergus to dispose of the evidence—kill Jody—he can't do it. He's spent too much time with him, become too sympathetic. Too empathetic. Fate, however, isn't so discriminating. And Fergus is left with the pact he's made with the fallen soldier.

The vow is to break the news to
Jody's true-love, Dil (Jaye Davidson), and as the rest of the group go underground, Fergus fulfills his pledge and, along the way, becomes smitten with the hair-dresser/chanteuse.

The rest of the movie details Fergus's struggle to stay underground
and protect Dil from his vengeful mates. It gets complicated. Very complicated.

What's love got to do with it? Everything. Like "
Vertigo," "The Crying Game" brings into the open the question of what "love" really is. Fergus, and Vertigo's protagonist both share a name fragment as well as a vision of love that is their own, one that may have nothing to do with reality. But, it's real in some way. It has to do with responsibility and commitment and loyalty and all the things that go along with love and the bond it ties you up in.

At two points in the screenplay, writer-director
Neil Jordan uses the fable of the frog and the scorpion and the bond they form to cross a river. Orson Welles used it in his "Confidential Report" (aka "Mr. Arkadin") to explain the unexplainable. For Fergus, it's acknowledgement that he's learned something...if only about himself. "It's my Nature" is the last line of the fable.

Well, that's half-right. But, there are no absolutes. As with the old debate, one has to acknowledge that "Nurture" plays a hand as well.

"She's...She's On!" Dil (Jaye Davidson) performs—
a sequence seamlessly designed and directed by Neil Jordan,
realized only after you've seen it a second time.

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