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Hank Stamper and his father, Henry Stamper own and operate the family business by cutting and shipping logs in Oregon. The town is furious when they continue working despite the town going broke and the other loggers go on strike ordering the Stampers to stop, however Hank continues to push his family on cutting more trees. Hank's wife wishes he would stop and hopes that they can spend more time together. When Hank's half trouble making brother Leland comes to work for them, more trouble starts. Written by
A fine, workable adaption of an excellent but unfilmable novel
Kesey's superb epic novel with its shifting points of view and verb tense is far too complex a work to adapt directly. Kesey's prose while exceptionally cinematic in its description and action ironically proves unfilmable.
That said, Paul Newman and his production team have created a most admirable and solid, if rather top heavy adaption of Kesey's excellent novel.
The dialogue while rather shallow and weak in spurts (Kesey's rich vernacular is lost)is overcome by a wonderful ensemble cast featuring some of America's finest. Who better that Henry Fonda to play Newman's father? Richard Jaekel richly earns the Oscar nomination as the dim-witted but enthusiastic born again lumberjack Joe-Ben. The famous scene where Newman tries desperately to save Jaekel's character from drowning is heartbreakingly tragic and darkly comic. It is a marvelous example of direction.
Newman spent a great deal of time in my native Oregon researching the part and the film and his homework shows. Kesey's rich descriptions of the land remain largely intact. The sense of time and place is impressively captured in the photography of rusting metal, dripping ferns, rotting wood and mildewed carpets. This is a film that one can almost smell.
Newman is one of the finest artists ever to come out of Hollywood. Not only as an actor, but also as a director. He instinctivly knows how to illicit naturalistic, comfortable and utterly human performances from his casts and Sometimes a Great Notion is no exception. Well worth a look. 7 out of 10 stars.
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