Monday, October 20, 2008

Film Review--The Exiles

The Exiles
written and directed by Kent MacKenzie
starring Mary Donahue, Homer Nish, Clydean Parker, Tom Reynolds, Rico Rodriguez, Clifford Ray Sam, Eddie Sunrise, Yvonne Williams

Oh, cruel isolation and boredom can be a sordid mess of failed expectations and general distress. Here we have a small gang of youth who are looking, just looking, to get into it, to feel it tightening about their throat. They want to be ripped to shreds, to be cast into the stars, to fly heavenward, leaving a trail of matter to crash broken into exploded buildings. Yet, the daily grind keeps wearing at them; they cannot bear to be left behind so they dance, they fight, they live life with a rare and discreet passion.

The soul of the Indian, not some sacred buffalo or wolf, nothing like you’ve seen in movies before; it is the same soul shared diligently by all mankind. This is the Indian who has been brought or been brought to the city to carry on with business of living. They are hardly distinguishable from any other youth out to find trouble on a Friday night. All the illusions, the safe stereotypes, do not do justice to these individuals who merely want the same thing the rest of them want: a bottle of something cold and perhaps a comforting look from a stranger. They want to dance and be drunk, spinning around as lights distort and flash by. To find a reason to fight someone who might have given you a sour glance as you walked in. There is hatred of circumstance projected onto anyone who dares stand in the way. Broken promises healed by split knuckles glancing off of smug faces, falling backward as tables overturn.

Mostly they drink because they need to dull whatever it is that is afflicting them. These are Urban Indians, non-actors, who are living out fantasies and movements that sing brutal songs of poverty and disease when they bother to think about conditions back on the reservation. One instance of flashback gives us an elevated vision of the res with happiness and order taking the essential place in the narrative. But, in many areas such unabashed ebullience does not reign without contradiction. In the city there is acute loneliness and fear of everything that can strip a life of its bearings.

Within the lines there is a sense of meaning that can be exploited to engineer a reasonable life divorced of undue excitement, regulated and controlled. This is not the life these characters want to lead. Improvisation and a loosely constructed script lead to moments of clarity that send a pleasantly confounding message of regret and steely-eyed determination. The night leads to confrontation, battles of wills, strange moments when the battle axe of fate hangs delicately overhead, bearing down on lives about to ring true perhaps for the first time.

The threat of violence is always present; the anger is pronounced and takes form in small gestures or sideways glances that say more about the situation than any high minded application of script to action ever could. The story is simple. It is a matter of drinking, gambling, lamenting and trying to forget what cannot be forgotten. Energies are stripped bare and clean; each emblem commits to a startled moment where bodies pause in mid air and cannot come together. The sex in this film is all contained in the frustrated males who would break any woman down to her usable parts. The women get slapped around and put in their place; they are treated as necessary evils who wear out their welcome soon enough and are thereafter considered a nuisance. Still, there are moments of need when the women are treated with something resembling respect. But there is no dignity to their movements; they shuffle about with their noses to the ground like dogs searching for a freshly killed body.

Overall, this film captures the feeling of longing that takes over reason and catapults the body into a realm where the studied realm of normative life ceases to be a burden. It is speed, power, and even a bit of pain to remind one that it all actually happened. We have a sacred/profane drumming session high on a hill. Chanting echoes off the valley below as the creatures lay snug in their expensive sheets, dreaming of haunting figures, slouched over a drum, patchouli souls bringing a new created thing into this multiverse. The sun rises and the players and pretenders move out to find their place back in the cruel, victorious world. Yet the possibility exists that later in the evening they can start the whole charade over again. This time there will be no excuses not to go all out. No safety nets, nothing can hold back the effervescent agonies that will most certainly afflict them as they prolong the torment into a soft, diabolic dementia. These are the Indian youth, removed from the influence of tradition yet reclaiming it after a fashion as it comes headlong into contact with the white man’s music. The furies fly about and sow the seeds of discord that is transformed into moments of sweet torment.

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