Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Paul Newman's Exodus
By chance I checked out a DVD last week of the 1960 movie version of "Exodus" starring Paul Newman as the Zionist hero Ari...
...here being injected with adrenaline in his heart a la "Pulp Fiction" by Eva Marie Saint.
The three-and-a-half hour widescreen Otto Preminger film had disappeared from repertory theatres over the last 40 years and I'd never seen it before. Surprisingly, most of it holds up rather well, possibly because it was filmed on location in Cyprus and Palestine. The authenticity is also helped by the thousands of extras who look like they had probably participated in the 1946-47 historical events surrounding the founding of modern Israel that were recreated for the film.
In some ways, the movie has the feeling of a proto "Battle of Algiers," including the bombing of the King David Hotel by the Irgun terrorist group. However, being a Hollywood spectacular, there are plenty of absurdities, mostly in the casting. Peter Lawford as an anti-semitic British officer, Sal Mineo as an Irgun terrorist and John Derek (husband of Bo) as the "good" Arab are all ridiculous.
What this movie mostly reminded me of is how much fun it is to watch Paul Newman no matter how mediocre the movie might be, and the vast majority of the films he starred in are truthfully not that good.
He wasn't even a particularly great actor, in the Daniel Day-Lewis sense of that phrase, but he was always interesting, sexy and beautiful to watch, even when mouthing Dalton Trumbo's turgid speeches in "Exodus."
The finale is Paul's funeral oration for John Derek and the little blonde girl Holocaust survivor who has been kidnapped and killed by an Arab terrorist. He pleads for a time where "Arab and Jew will share in a peaceful life this land that they have always shared in death." My partner Tony remarked, "Apparently, not in your lifetime, Paul."