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The Day of the Locust

Screening on Film
Directed by John Schlesinger.
With Donald Sutherland, Karen Black, William Atherton.
US, 1975, 35mm, color, 144 min.
Print source: HFA

Nathanael West drew upon his time as a Hollywood screenwriter in the 1930s to pen his classic novel, which John Schlesinger translates to the silver screen, wielding a more generous amount of degeneration and deformity. Depicted through Conrad Hall’s deceptively glamorous lens, the vivid menagerie of Hollywood’s depressed rejects parade through an equally variegated array of paroxysms, made all the more harrowing by the effects of the Depression. Schlesinger packs the picture with complex performances, including Donald Sutherland’s frighteningly repressed Midwesterner, Homer Simpson; Karen Black’s Faye, vapid, talentless and forever lost in the hall of mirrors; and Burgess Meredith as her father whose vaudeville act has disintegrated into door-to-door sales. Creating and then destroying empty dreams and repressed desires, Schlesinger’s Hollywood gives birth to a grotesque, artificial spectacle imploding and feeding upon itself to horrifically apocalyptic ends.

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