Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 2 March 2015

All is lost, or: the old man and the sea

ALL IS LOST. Finally, a look at this very compelling film about a lone sailor battling the elements, and the only person in it is Robert Redford. I saw this just after the great 1975 thriller THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR on Sky TV, when RR was in his '70s prime, quite a contrast to the the craggy older Redford on screen here (Spencer Tracy was 58 when he made his old man and the sea film back in 1958: THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, from Hemingway, Redford is 77 here). Reading the IMDB comments on ALL IS LOST it seems a very divisive film with lots of interpretations ....

Deep into a solo voyage in the Indian Ocean, an unnamed man (Redford) wakes to find his 39-foot yacht taking on water after a collision with a shipping container left floating on the high seas. With his navigation equipment and radio disabled, the man sails unknowingly into the path of a violent storm. Despite his success in patching the breached hull, his mariner's intuition and a strength that belies his age, the man barely survives the tempest. Using only a sextant and nautical maps to chart his progress, he is forced to rely on ocean currents to carry him into a shipping lane in hopes of hailing a passing vessel. But with the sun unrelenting, sharks circling and his meager supplies dwindling, the ever-resourceful sailor soon finds himself staring his mortality in the face.

SPOILERS AHEAD: Is the ending left deliberately oblique so the viewer can make up their own mind? The question is does he die? Those big container cargo ships do not see him, and finally he has to set his rubber dinghy alight to attract attention. When that too fails he is left with nothing - and slowly sinks into the ocean - too deep to to be rescued perhaps, then he sees a white light, he swims to the light and a hand reaches out for him....or maybe a small boat arrives (from where?) and the hand reaches down to him which he suddenly finds the energy to swim towards ...

What I found jarring, was his total silence. Who does not or would not talk to themselves if alone at sea, facing disaster after disaster, from waking to see his boat damaged to its eventual sinking ..... he barely speaks apart from a scream and a radio message and the voiceover of the note he writes. One has to admire Redford, he is splendid tacking all these scenes. Three boats were used in the course of the film, directed by J.C. Chandor, but that ending is still a puzzle. And why does he waste water shaving? We know nothing about him, there is no back story, he does not even seem a good sailor - as per IMDB comments. It all reminded me of another man at sea drama: Kon Ichikawa's ALONE ON THE PACIFIC from 1963 where a resourceful Japanese sailor sails a boat from Japan to San Francisco bay with all the attendant hazards he faces .... (review at Japan label). Then theres the 2003 Australian OPEN WATER with that couple lost at sea ... (2000s label).

Next: Before the London BFI's 2015 LGBT festival, a gay mini-festival here, with PRIDE / CUCUMBER / THE DRESSER / HOCKNEY / LOVE IS STRANGE.
Then: that HOUSE OF CARDS re-boot, Plus dipping into that Shakespeare lot: Olivier's OTHELLO, Orson's FALSTAFF (CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT), Polanski's MACBETH (plus McKellen's and Nicol Williamson's), HAMLETs by Olivier, Branagh, Richardson, Zeffirelli, Kosintsev and the BBC, Olivier's Shylock for the National's MERCHANT OF VENICE and more some more Trash Classics, and a return to European cinema with more Romy Schneider, Catherine Deneuve, Marcello Mastroianni ...


  1. Martin Bradley4 March 2015 at 13:39

    Personally, I think ALL IS LOST is an extraordinary film by one of the finest new directors working anywhere. I can't believe Redford wasn't nominated for the Oscar though he did win the New York Critic's prize.

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