Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Elephant Man

Sample titles for this blog post, which were scrapped because I couldn't decide on just one:

The Elephant Man: David Lynch, without all the nonsense


The Elephant Man: The *real* Best Picture of 1980 (or at least better than the consensus top film)


The Elephant Man: Why, again, isn't this considered an all-time great by outfits like AFI?

Yes, friends, this stylized account of the life of Joseph Merrick (mistakenly known as John Merrick) is that good.

(Cinema Scope with the pic)

What's brilliant about The Elephant Man -- the story of a deformed former circus sideshow (John Hurt) who takes up residence in a London hospital thanks to a curious doctor (Anthony Hopkins) and becomes something of a high-society curiosity -- is its breadth of style and substance.

It's got director Lynch's impeccable craft -- e.g. that mid-film dream sequence -- but ditches his typical nonsensical storyline for a thoughtful tale told at a measured pace. It's equally bright and dark, showing the best of humanity and the worst -- and all those moral gray areas, too. And when the film reaches its almost inevitable conclusion, it is simultaneously happy and sad, bringing about the urge to cry ... for some reason, although it's hard to peg exactly why.

Heartbreaking? Heartwarming? Try both. Or how about this: It's heart-tugging -- easily one of the most emotionally affecting films out there.

So why, again, does this one get so often shafted in the annals of film history?

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