Women’s Shadow in the American Western

1408626858126Thirza Wakefield at Granta:

‘You want to talk about the vanishing wilderness?’ These are the opening words of John Boorman’s Deliverance (1972), spoken by Burt Reynolds’ character Lewis, the only self-declared outdoorsman among four Atlanta men headed for a canoeing trip along the fictional Cahulawassee River. The expedition is Lewis’s idea and, driving into backcountry by way of the opening credits, he’s hard-pressed to persuade the party of the urgency and importance of their trip. This is the last chance they’ll have to ride the river: the government plans to flood the valley to make way for a reservoir – more recreation for ‘your smug little suburb’, Lewis calls it. Where they’re going is frontier territory: ‘just about the last wild, untamed, unpolluted, un-fucked-up river in the South.’

Director of photography Vilmos Zsigmond’s wooded American wild is a voluptuous green, backlit by an acid sun. Zsigmond desaturated the film’s Technicolor, dredging the photography of reds, blues and yellows, effecting a backwoods that vibrates with fecundity, a cannibalizing flora that eats at the edges of the frame.

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