7 May 2012 | ilpohirvonen
A Highly Recommendable Film with a Cool Dreary Atmosphere
Before The Chase (1966) Arhur Penn had already proved his abilities in The Left Handed Gun (1958) and The Miracle Worker (1962), both of which were films that dealt with human growth and agony of the youth. In this case, The Chase is no exception but, however, it takes Penn's vision even further in depicting American culture on a more widely associative manner. To put it briefly, the film tells a story about the collision of an escaped convict, an oil tycoon, a righteous sheriff and angry townspeople, which results in tragic consequences. At its heart, The Chase depicts an individual who tries to find justice in a hostile environment.
I guess I don't have to convince you of Penn's -- the man who was to make such films as Bonnie & Clyde (1967) and Little Big Man (1970) -- directional talent, which can be well seen in this undeservedly overlooked gem. The film is genuinely structured on some enduring contrasts of the individual and the community, freedom and imprisonment, love and hate, new and old. In fact, its deliberately created dreary atmosphere is merely stemming from the world of racism, violence and alcoholism, all of whose themes Penn studies, at least to some extent. Moreover, he goes deeper in looking at the American society of the 1960's: sexual liberalization, existential agony and the vacancy of modern life.
To my mind, the milieu in which this desolation takes place is described with extreme talent, as are the characters, and although the film has a few weak scenes I think it is fair to call it quite a film. It portrays a world where people spend their time partying and trying to sink their worries to alcohol while the seeming, almost idyllic, guilt-free existence collapses. Through unfolding tensions and conflicts, Penn attains to reveal truths of the characters and thus, of humanity. I'm sure for many the film isn't necessarily anything special but for those to whom it works, it really works. I myself was absolutely hooked as I observed the pressure erupt on the screen. If in doubt, don't leave it out.