It’s nice timing that a Blu-ray of “Born On The Fourth Of July” would show up at my house this morning, since Oliver Stone is on my mind right now.
There was a time when I would have named Oliver Stone on my very short list of the world’s most exciting filmmakers every single year, but it’s been a while since that was true, and that has seemed mainly to be a matter of him not connecting with the right piece of material, or him not making the most of the material he’s had. Even so, I’ve always been interested in what he’s up to, and the films of his that I love, I love with an almost unreserved intensity.
One of the films we discussed when I recently sat down with Stone was “Scarface,” which he wrote for director Brian De Palma. The film is notorious for its excesses, of course, and Al Pacino’s performance has become the stuff of legend. It is a perfect example of a sort of manic coke aesthetic that was developing throughout the ’80s. By the time Stone started directing his own films instead of writing for other directors, he was running hot, cranking out these amazing overheated pieces of underworld pulp, exploring the ugly dirty parts of being a soldier, exposing the soft white underbelly of our financial world or war journalism. He turned out a series of big movies about big ideas, movies that were expensive studio films but wildly political, defiantly opinionated.
For my money, his work on “JFK” remains the single greatest example of the filmmaking style that he was developing at that point in his life. It’s amazing, a giant movie that seems unafraid to try outrageous things. I don’t believe much of the movie, but I am fascinated by every second of it. And perhaps it’s unfair when a filmmaker does something as amazing as “JFK” to expect them to repeat that trick the next time out or the time after that or, honestly, ever again. It can’t be easy to make a film like that once, much less over and over.
One of the virtues of “Savages” is just how stripped down and clean the narrative and the characterizations are. Oliver’s painting in primary colors here, and that’s what he does best. He also remains fascinated by the way things work on the fringe of legality, and you can tell that he’s interested in something by how he shoots it, how he captures the details of it.
Our exclusive video today is a quick look at Oliver in action on the set, and we’ll have my interview with him coming soon. And, of course, I’ll have my review of “Savages” for you soon as well.
“Savages” arrives in theaters July 6.