1 September 2005 | jpschapira
Macchio, music and the blues
I feel something for Ralph Macchio, and it is not love. The first time I ever saw his face, I can swear it inspired greatness. Then he talked, he act, he spread his talents all around, and no person can deny he was a natural. The character he created and developed in the first three "Karate Kids" (the first one is one of my favorite films) was sing of commitment and skill.
I was experiencing the hilarious "My cousin Vinny" the other day and he played another original character, being that one of his last important roles. Maybe what I feel is compassion because he couldn't make it as an elder man, and I really wanted to watch him grow. Maybe I miss his first and few big breaks, where he literally knocked me down; one of those being "Crossroads".
He was 25 at that time, but still had that 17-year old look, where you would have said: "Wow, he's 17 and in main role"
Well, I'd have said that. "Crossroads" is an inspiring tale about life and music; blues. It was not the first time that a filmmaker tried to relate music with life. I have personally never had doubts about it, because music is life for me; but in this film, for writer John Fusco it was about growing up, understanding the gift and use it for good.
Macchio portrayed Eugene Martone, a naive guy, gifted guitar player, crazy driven by the magic of blues. The love for music makes our mind think unconsciously about getting far, being big; and Eugene wants to go to Mississippi to get his chance, but needs someone who knows Robert Johnson's lost melody, knows the way, and has even lived it, if you know what I mean. In this story, that character is blues master Willie Brown (a tremendous Joe Seneca), now forgotten in an asylum, probably crazy (although he says he isn't but some brilliant sequences show him out of place) and without his car. But Eugene will get him out of there and they'll both start that journey together.
What happens next, including the various stops, problems, Ralph Macchio's wonderful guitar playing abilities and encounter with beautiful girl Frances (radiant and talented Jami Gertz) is for the viewer to discover. Now, how the title relates it's touching and interesting, but where director Walter Hill triumphs (and this is something that should never be forgotten for music movies nowadays) is in knowing that the story is there. The heart of his film lies in the development of the kid's and the old man's relationship.
When we now see movies about music that sometimes don't even have a clue "musically" and most of the times there is music to promote an artist in the film, because he/she sings; in Hill's "Crossroads" and in the relationship I was talking about, the discussions, conversations, walks and even music playing, hide some of life's deepest interrogations. And I regret saying blues is always the same, because even when it is, it is one of those musical styles, like jazz, that not many listen but when they do discover their power. It's in the eyes of the musicians when they play where you can see it; they love being in that scenario, and that's just magical.