„Why is the film in black & white?“
„Because it’s my favorite color.“
„Any last questions?“
„Ok, I’ll be at the bar.“
That‘s how Richard Linklater played cult director Eagle Pennell before the screening of Pennell‘s film Last Night at the Alamo, but the film was part of the Austin theme at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Eagle drank too much to be able to direct more then two movies worthy of his talent before he died, eight days before turning fifty. He drank most of his opportunities away, but at least he did more with his life then most of his main protagonists.
Linklater also mentioned he suspected the film held two records in film history; most drinking in one film and most cursing in one film. I suspect it only holds the second record though, the main characters could have drunk a lot more if they hadn’t kept talking so much. I’m sure there’s a film out there about silent drunks that out-drink them all.
Early on the film is like an exaggeration of the loud American – the soundtrack cuts your ears, not from explosion or loud music, but simply by loud drunkards. I’m not sure if it was the sound at the theatre or if it’s supposed to be like that, and if so, was that on purpose or because of how low their budget was that the sound got all fucked up? But little by little the film quiets down and you start getting into the rhythm and the plot, the little there is of that.
Because the film certainly feels a part of the Austin school Linklater is a part of, there’s a lot of talk and little actual plot, this is simply a night in the life of a bar, the last night. In that sense it’s not so different from Dazed & Confused, only with considerably older and more drunk protagonists.
Yet little by little one character takes over. The cowboy. That’s all he’s ever called – and he’s the hero of everybody in the bar. Seemingly without much effort – and he’s likeable and handles their adoration with humility. He’s everybody’s older brother, they all look up to him.
But then he starts chatting to a girl who’s not a regular and little by little his flaws start showing. He never turns into any sort of monster, not at all – but this is a slow-moving car crash for a fragile masculinity, where you start seeing beneath the veneer and the clumsiness that comes with his insecurity about his own masculinity. Then perhaps the most visually stunning scene in the film – when he drops his hat and we see his bald scalp, totally out of character – or perhaps rather a confirmation that he’s been acting a role all this time.
Text: Ásgeir H Ingólfsson