Farmer Cyrus Futz loves his pig Amanda, and therefore he does disservice to the town tart, Marjorie Satz. Seeing Futz at backyard play, nutty Oscar Loop is moved to murder leather loving Ann Fox in a mad attempt to preserve the purity of the natural world. Loop must die, Marjorie must be avenged, and Futz must have his happy home life drowned in a ritual blood bath.
The key word is neither "pig" nor "blood" nor even "bath." The key word is "ritual." Rochelle Owens's modestly pleasant closet drama, though weak on structure, is strong on magical associations, and it implicated its hapless hayseeds, with the great god Zeus, the dancing Siva and the rhythmic return of the seasons and the sun. Given all this, you may sense that "Futz" is more fun to think about than to read. I can assure you that it is infinitely more fun to read than to see in Tom O'Horgan's movie version, which opened yesterday at the Kips Bay Theater.
O'Horgan has rituals of his own in mind. If his movie, photographed in Stockton, Calif., but cast with the La Mama Troupe and such celebrated local yokels as Jane Holzer and Sally Kirkland, comes out looking like animated Thomas Hart Benton, we must assume that Thomas Hart Benton was really his intention. O'Horgan's rural America, although visual as all get out, is really no more particularized than Miss Owens's. Both of them seem to believe that nature imitates art. And if it doesn't, both are willing to push a good deal until it does.
"Futz" moves with rather too much agility between a theatrical playing space (a platform set up in an open field, with a contingent of country types as audience) and a number of more or less realistic settings. One the stage, O'Horgan produces from his actors the singing, chanting, contorting, posing and groping for which, I believe, he has become famous. In the realistic settings, he demands an analogous versatility from his camera - and from the editing department and the film lab. The result is one of those explorations of the possibilities of cinema that always end up discovering so much less than the latest Hollywood gumdrop does.
The movie benefits a from what seems to be superb performances, or at least superbly trained performances. Miss Owens's lines lend themselves to a kind of poetical intoning that I suspect isn't as tough as it looks. In any case, the performers move and speak with great precision, and with great precision suggest the stars in their eyes and the blood in their brains that constitute the public soul of Miss Owens's work.
But O'Horgan betrays his cast, as he betrays the play, by a devotion to cinematic invention as inexpressive as it is ambitious. Miss Owens's literary tropes indicate some affection for the language (if not for the actual speech of her characters' prototypes), but O'Horgan's movie tricks suggest a real mistrust for film. The scandal of this "Futz" has nothing to do with loving pigs, or your mother's breasts or the smell of your own two feet. It has to do with violating that sacred space between camera and subject, that dense and highly charged field of view that is in fact the "medium" by which movies live.
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