Mar 9 – May 6
Lovers on the Run movies proved harder to find and watch than I thought. It’s a genre maybe only popular in my head. It was something I thought as a young man just getting into crime novels that certainly had the most emotional resonance as genre. People who love each other, will go to the ends of the earth for each other. Even rob, steal and sometimes kill.
Romantic love at its zenith!
But with this batch of films, you find out that the genre is particularly malleable and love may have nothing to with being on the lam.
In fact, romance may be the last thing you find.
Queen & Slim (2019) – This may be the first lovers-on-the-run with a black couple as said sweethearts. I’m not sure if that’s true (I’m proved wrong with a movie below). But this movie treats itself that way. There’s a street-fairy-tale to the telling of this. A first date in a greasy-spoon diner. The girl is bored and in need of some attention, and not impressed. The boy is earnest and simple, a family man looking for his own makings of one. They don’t really hit it off. Enter America and its police. More of a nightmarish fairy-tale when the guns go off and they’ve killed a racist (they find out later) cop and have to go on the run; than a fuzzy feeling of being on the road from Johnny Law and living your own brand of freedom. But the couple does find that there are people out there who are willing to help. The black community has found their Bonnie and Clyde. Not because they’re Robin Hoods, but because they’ve somehow survived long enough to dream about getting away. Not getting away with it, but away from death. Away from the crushing boot of the white American dream. There’s an innocent structure to this movie that is only regurgitating what classic lovers-on-the-run have fed us for years. It’s simple but genius in its subversion of what white’s gave done with black culture from the beginning.
Villains (2019) – It’s Mickey and Mallory on drugs. Which takes the edge off of them and subtracts a decade, somehow (It was just Oliver doing all the drugs). What if they were just kids looking to have a little fun; on a road trip to Florida? Then you run out of gas. You run out of gas when your lovers on the run. It’s just something that’s always overlooked. Passion gets in the way. The thrill of criminality and loose body parts just isn’t conducive to stopping at a gas station beforehand. We see it all the time. And it’s usually in the middle of nowhere. Here it’s somewhat in the middle of nowhere. There’s a house nearby, and Desperate Hours gets turned on its head. Because the married couple that lives there are stuck in amber. Stuck in some hardened remains of a shattered shot at having a family. The man’s shooting blanks and the wife’s all twisted up about it. None of it really makes sense other than the comment on male virility being such a fragile piece of glass all looped around ego.
River of Grass (1994) – You don’t always have to be in love to be on the run. You don’t even have to like the person you’re on the lam with. You just kind of need to find a person to be unstuck with. Or to meander through Dade County with, trying to unload your grandmother’s records. Reichardt uses an 80’s indie-vibe-synchronicity to weave a Stray Bullets-like story of lonely people, doing enigmatic things in the Everglades. A woman living with her cop-father leaves her kids behind one night after swimming in a backyard pool and accidently shooting the homeowner with a gun that one of Fessender’s friends finds in the street. The gun happens to be cop-father’s police-issued firearm, something he lost goofily chasing a crook. But she doesn’t actually shoot the guy, so all of this is just futile pocket change that could only happen in Florida. That could only happen to people way out there on the edge of things, wondering how the universe places them there in the first place.
Thomasine and Bushrod (1974) – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid lives in this movie. Parks Jr must have been a big fan. Most people are. It’s fun and lethal and sexy. This movie shoots for that and succeeds. Maybe you’re thinking it’s more Bonnie and Clyde, just twenty years earlier and more pigment. Could be you’re right. Could be they’re paying homage to both films. But they’re blazing a new trail, all their own. It’s a great look into the modernization of not just the West but the nation as a whole. Like the Wild Bunch, it features automobiles in the world of horse thievery and itchy-trigger fingers. But this one features more automobiles. Like, a lot of cars, circa 1911. It’s amazing how they seem to pop up so suddenly. Just like Glynn Turman showing up as a Jamaican gunslinger, with a funny hat. It’s also kind of amazing that a movie exists like this one. A lovers-on-the-run-black-western. And Parks hits all the right notes (except for the Jamaican cowboy). Max Julien and Vonetta McGee are so sweet and fiery to each other. They’ve managed to squeeze in their own touching and realistic love story into everything else going on in this movie.
Mean Dreams (2016) – It’s impeccably shot and paced. The kids are a bit out of their depth, technically and metaphorically. It works in this somber tone of a first-time-love always tip-toeing on a line of destruction. And it’s got a mean rural-noir plot at its center, that anchors it throughout. The line that’s always drawn in a young-love-on-the-run tales is more often than not between parents and children. More than just a generational gap where differences are cultural misfires, the older generation takes up the posture of a conquering army. Always encroaching with bitter smiles and heavy hands. There’s a distrust between the young and the old and never the tween shall meet. Bill Paxton plays that poison moat to the most scene-eating extreme. It’s funny, you don’t really think of him as a scene-chewer, but take a look back at his career and he’s that guy. In Aliens, Weird Science and True Lies. It’s usually from a wacky angle, but here it’s a whiskey-filled, venomous wrath. He’s a dark wit curled throughout this movie that’s lucky to have him. A movie savvy enough to know how to use him. Know that the genre needed him.
Infamous (2020) – An interesting look at how fame is intertwined in the American consciousness of crime. Why commit a crime if you can’t be known for it? You don’t want your work to go unknown. It’s a coda taken to its zenith with the help of social media. The perfect platform for bandits on the run. Instant gratification. A world you can live in and be liked in by total strangers. But there’s one thing you have to do. You have to be interesting. All the time. Or risk losing people on an epic scale. Here the woman is bent on leaving her mark on the world. More Bonnie than Holly. More Spring Breakers than anything. Strange how that movie seems to influence this one. Florida setting and all. Youthful transgressions and all. Especially the exuberance and understanding of current technology and the way social media works and the avarice inherent in it all. These criminals on the run, the one’s that chose to rob banks or any place with cash-holdings, are never really into the money. They’re in it for the attention. For whatever reason, they’re looking to be liked. Or loved. Or hated. Just noticed. Because no one looks in the margins.
Princess Mononoke (1997) – Humans on the run from industrialization. An unlikely love story. It’s love at first sight for one and hatred for one’s own for the other. The stakes are high in this phantasmagoria of animal gods and the seeping sewage of man’s wasteful energy. Digging into the earth for metal is treated as a disease of mankind in this fantasy tale. Bullets for our guns has caused a great sickness in the natural world. At the time that this was made it was more of an environmental message, and still is, but you’re mind kept help from wandering into what you may feel about gun control. The right to bear arms as a sickness unto itself. A black ooze that eats you up from the inside. It’s of a sort, anathema to the Lover’s on the Run subgenre. Where the men and women covet gunplay. Often times, psycho-sexually. It’s the one freedom that they have. The freedom to wield a weapon and plot your own course. Damn the consequences. But that’s what this movie is about. The consequences of civilizations. Miyazaki has made an environmentalist, anti-gun, Lovers on the Run fantasy film for all time.
You Only Live Once (1937) – Certainly the Great Depression is the incubator for the Lovers on the Run movie genre. And Henry Fonda the patron saint of that era of blues. The era of the sulky, white man who can’t catch a break. He’s trying to go straight but nobody will let him. Nobody cares really. Not about reforming criminals, anyway. Never have and never will. But like most fatalistic noir, none of it is really the hero’s fault. At some point, someone eviler than you will steal your hat and set you up for a bank robbery. And your life will be just one wrong turn after another. But remember, none of it is really your fault. The universe is certainly conspiring against you. At least you have the unwavering, albeit incomprehensible, love of a beautiful women, who’s willing to go on the lam with you and have your baby. The best part about it is, is in the way that you thank her. You wait till the very end and thank her for loving you. Because it’s all about you and your woe. Just get make sure you get in the way of those bullets, please, and thank you.
I’m Your Woman (2020) – A strange thing happens along the way. It’s sort of built into the genre. Strange things need to happen. The strange thing that happens here is that the man is present for just ten minutes at the beginning. And in his place a baby emerges. An adopted boy, later named Harry, becomes the fulcrum for a plunge into a neat crime-drama set in the seventies. It’s a nuanced look at feminism and race and the fateful roles that fathers play. And it’s all set against a Brubacker-like-Criminal-world. It takes its time, telling the story through a naïve Midge, a white gal so underwater at the start that everything out of her mouth is a question that Cal, who’s sent to protect her, views as just the many white annoyances that plague his job. And then we meet his family, and the whole story gets explained and turned on its head. Devious strings work their way through this plot. And Cal’s family are well-versed in navigating this complicated white-criminal world. It’s the structure they live in and the one that Midge is oblivious to. It’s a near perfect look at white domination and the misogyny that’s layered in our society throughout.
Days of Heaven (1978) – The Proletariat Blues. Unskilled workers don’t unite here. They just get used and abused and misunderstood. When a ragged-faced foreman walks up to a hunched over Brooke Adams and tells her he’s docking her wages for ruining wheat bushels, he doesn’t offer guidance or information on how not to ruin bushels, he just walks away and threatens to fire them if they don’t like his management style. It’s America post-manifest destiny. The rolling wheat fields have been claimed and now they need to be worked. A perfect place for a loose family of vagrants fleeing the meat house of Chicago to settle in and look for opportunities. And be surprised by love. And be surprised by the triangular hardships of the open plains. But not be surprised by the crushing and wreathing of industrialism on the move. Not be surprised by that ostentatious house all alone on that prairie. Or be surprised at what malice lurks in that fresh-faced Sam Shepard as locust eat his fields and jealousy rakes his heart. But maybe we’re surprised at the end when Malick shows us that men will keep on breaking the world and women will endure.