Rumble Fish

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Critics almost unanimously hated it, finding it technically impressive but overly detached and empty of humanism or substance.

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As he contemplated his next move, Coppola received a letter from a junior high school librarian, entreating him to adapt The Outsiders for the screen. The novel, which had become one of the most popular young adult books of all time, told the story of two young boys from the wrong side of the tracks, embroiled in a local gang conflict between the rough-and-tumble Greasers and the preppy Socs. Moved by the letter, Coppola also saw an opportunity to generate some money before the full brunt of his One From the Heart debts came crashing down.

Not only would the project have a built in audience among the fans of the novel, it would also allow him to work with a cast of young actors.

Rumble Fish (Francis Ford Coppola, 1983) Gang Fight

Not to put too fine a point on it, he augmented the film with a swooning score, composed by his own father. But Coppola the business-minded pragmatist could only stay in ascendance for so long before Coppola the restless artist came out of eclipse. As production went on, he began to imagine another project, based on another Hinton novel, one that would deal with the same themes but would be the negative of The Outsiders in tone and presentation, a kind of shadow-twin; gritty where its counterpart was gentle, avant-garde where its double was pop. The story follows a teenaged hoodlum named Rusty James, who is obsessed with living up to the reputation of his older brother, an absent, quasi-mythic gang leader known only as The Motorcycle Boy.

S. E. Hinton's Rumble Fish is remembered with historic plaque

He may be enlightened, or he may be mad. Treating the project as a reward for finishing The Outsiders , Coppola wrote the screenplay with S.

Hinton on days off from shooting. Less than a month after The Outsiders had wrapped, Rumble Fish had started filming, using virtually the same crew.

The view: The lost pleasures of Rumble Fish

Mickey Rourke, then at the height of his magnetism, took the role of The Motorcycle Boy, modeling the character on Napoleon and Albert Camus. Like The Outsiders , Rumble Fish is cinema-literate, composed from disparate reference points: the strange angles and painted shadows of Expressionist silent film; the theatricality and fanciful choreography of old Hollywood musicals; surreal, symbol-laden mise-en-scene recalling the weirder works of arthouse directors like Orson Welles, Federico Fellini, Jean Cocteau, and Ingmar Bergman.

It calls to mind many other works of art, cinematic and otherwise, yet its style is completely singular. But most remarkable, perhaps, is that through this filmic language, Coppola is able to grasp something that is not esoteric but simple and universal. Rumble Fish is about growing up. There is no other film like it. This stretch of his career is widely regarded as the period where a great artist lost his magic, but for me, it represents a great, unrealized project.

Had it come to pass, perhaps he might have given us another classic run. Visit our website to learn more and purchase tickets. Sign in. Get started. Bryn Mawr Film Institute Follow. See you at the movies! Upcoming films, special events, and film courses at BMFI. See responses 1. However, the narrative is not a first concern of Mr.

Coppola's here. From the first scenes in which a sky of fast-rolling clouds is contrasted with some graffiti about the Motorcycle Boy, the film is a melange of wildly overblown imagery. There are red and blue fish the only signs of color in the film , clocks everywhere, beautifully balletic fight scenes, pulsating music by Stewart Copeland of the Police , and a sequence in which Rusty- James, suffering a head injury, actually levitates.

Floating face down with a cigarette in his mouth, grinning at his pool-playing buddies and his grieving sweetheart Diane Lane , Rusty-James quite literally watches his life drift by. As this may suggest, ''Rumble Fish'' exerts more than a little fascination, even at its most absurd. When Mr. Coppola positions his two heroes against an enormous clock-face, which happens to be tied to a parked truck, his audacity can't help but be attention-getting.

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Rumble Fish (DVD)

But the film is so furiously overloaded, so crammed with extravagant touches, that any hint of a central thread is obscured. Coppola has wandered so far from whatever attracted him to the material that neither he nor Miss Hinton, who collaborated on the screenplay, can even begin to convey whatever they regarded as its essential concerns. As an actors' showcase, ''Rumble Fish'' remains interesting long after its visual affectations have worn thin. Mickey Rourke, who plays the Motorcycle Boy, has so much quiet authority that he comes close to making sense of the character, which can't have been easy.


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With his hair cut oddly so that the hairline suggests a heart, and with a gentle intelligence that transcends even the silliest lines ''Well, even the most primitive society has an innate respect for the insane,'' he's forced to say, by way of explaining himself , he does an outstanding job. So does Miss Lane, as the epitome of a teen siren, sometimes appearing in a school uniform and sometimes in black lingerie.

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Dillon has played too many dumb-but-sensitive thugs by now, but the measure of his performance here is in the way Rusty- James changes in his brother's presence. Dillon can shed his swaggering facade and suggest weakness and uncertainty just when those things are needed. A number of the images in ''Rumble Fish'' are more memorable than the film is as a whole, sometimes for the wrong reasons. When the two brothers stand outside Benny's Billiards, and the glass door of that establishment reflects the most beautiful and dramatic cloud patterns racing by, it's impossible not to be distracted by questions of just how the shot was achieved, and just why.

The clouds may mean to suggest the speed at which Rusty-James's life is rushing past him, or, the inevitability of his fate, or the very inexorability of time itself. But this is still only Benny's Billiards, after all. Hinton and Mr. Coppola, based on the novel by Miss Hinton; photography by Stephen H.


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Opens Sunday at Loews Tower East. Running time: minutes. This film is rated R. Log In. View on timesmachine. TimesMachine is an exclusive benefit for home delivery and digital subscribers.