11 November 2001 | curtis-8
Great performance from...David Carradine!!??
"Bound For Glory" is a very involving and interesting movie in a hypnotic, slow-moving seventies kind of way. In fact, for the first 45 minutes I was watching it on cable TV, I had no idea why I was watching it. Nothing much was happening. The "story" was episodic and meandering. But I did watch the thing all the way through--all 2 and a half hours of it. In retrospect, I can now see some reasons why the film held me so. To begin with, the cinematography is beautiful and the music is wonderful. But mostly it was the acting, which is uniformly excellent in a naturalistic way that is rarely seen these days. I had the impression I was peeking in on real people and events, not on movie actors playing out a script. The biggest revelation, however, was David Carradine, who gives an amazing performance as Woody Guthrie. He's just living the part. I mean--what has the guy ever done before or since that even hinted at the fact that he could act so damn well? Nothing, that's what! Carradine's performance in "Bound for Glory" reminds me of two other, more recent performances in similar films: Ashley Judd in Victor Nunez's "Ruby in Paradise" and Peter Fonda in the role that gave him an Oscar nomination, "Ulee's Gold", also by Nunez.
In these films you can see the main character thinking, breathing--living. Not acting out some melodrama.
Another common thread runs between these three performances, too: none of these actors have been allowed to (or been able to?) do work anywhere near as good again. The post-"Ruby" Judd has gone on to major in spunky thriller heroines and Fonda has drifted back off the map to wherever he was before "Ulee."
But Carradine is the one who really breaks your heart. He has continued acting, like Judd. But the horrendous quality of his projects make you wish he'd disappeared back in to the vapor of obscurity, like Fonda. After watching "Bound For Glory", the sight of Carradine zombie-walking through an episode of "Kung Fu: the Legend Continues" or snarling like a brain-dead idiot in one of his European-made direct-to-video action cheapies is enough to make you cry. The massive talent he wasted.
Still, many actors never have even one moment of glory.