Redneck sleaze. Apparently, it’s a genre. Hey, don’t look at me that way. I wasn’t a teenager in the 70’s, there were no drive-in theaters in my country (we did our romantic shenanigans by the beach or up on a hill) and video stores (or, god forbid, local TV stations) wouldn’t acquire this type of movie if it meant their lives. No big names, no big action, rural countryside of US&A and bunch of idiots running around – as you might think, all of that had really big international appeal. This just goes to show how the concept of international appeal is rotten to the core. Because, and I say this quite frankly, Country Blue is one hell of a movie. Thanks to the internet and the people who tend to archive stuff like this, one can find hidden gems like these. If it were up to the official channels of distribution this would have remained in the past. Buried underneath the muck that has gotten too much attention over the years.
The effect it had on me was probably due to the fact that I had no prior experience with this particular genre. I had my share of exploitation movies of the 70’s (part of the iconography of Country Blue is trans-genre in nature), but this branch eluded me up till now. How does this particular movie fare in the historical context of genre cinematography I have no idea, nor do I particularly care. These days I tend to avoid overcommiting to any style or substance. This allows me to “understand” the movies on their own terms (if they happen to be too post-modern in their formalistic approach, oh well, what can you do) and draws me away from automatic comparative reflex which kicks in whenever I watch something I’m familiar with. Anyhow, I find this to be a weird crossbreed of Michelangelo Antonioni’s neorealism, 70’s exploitation flick, Romeo&Juliette meets Thelma&Louise slash heist movie. This may seem like a strange hybrid but it works really well. Shot on locations near Tallahassee Country Blue successfully blends fictional and documentary moments. This mix is really successful in keeping up appearances. The entire movie looks like something Robert Flaherty would have done – go into the uncharted territory, make friends with the locals, tell them to do what they usually do and rearrange it a bit to please the camera. The effect was really astounding. Probably because it crosses international borders really well. These types of characters are not limited to the USA. Everyone had their share of devastated rural countryside experience.
All that imagery happening in the 70’s has its own cultural significance which is limited to America (the voice of the Other is quite strong here), though quite understandable elsewhere (particularly in countries like mine which has been colonized by US cultural imports). As any countercultural movement (though it is presuming too much to call this genre a movement) it had limited, if any, impact at all though that aspect didn’t really caught my eye. The real interesting thing was the writing of Jack and William Conrad. No real surprises storywise. It’s a hackneyed story with clichéd plot (and clichéd resolution as well), rather slow pace and rather arbitrary structure. It excels in dialogue which shows surprising lack of Hollywood pathos (or pathos of any kind for that matter) or those high and mighty explanatory moments (or “politically important”) which tend to suffocate movies of today. We’re looking at “real” people having “real” conversations which was a rarity even in the 70’s. If those conversations (or people) aren’t particularly interesting (or smart) – well, majority of real life people are just like that.
Recently, big hype was created around True Detective TV show which, amongst other things, wanted to explore dark underbelly of American cultural topography. In some way, Country Blue did all that (and did it better) 40 years ago. Where True Detective posits fictional characters, Country Blue posits people. Both of them serve as an elaborate show-and-tell scheme on the topic of failure of the civilization. While True Detective has to make up, characteristically unrealistic, people to make its point, creators of Country Blue found them on the spot. It’s a struggle of fiction against faction and, at least in this instance, faction won.
Director: Jack Conrad
Writers: Jack Conrad, William F. Conrad
Stars: Dub Taylor, Jack Conrad, Rita George
Studio: Millstone Productions Inc.
Buy it here