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Hardcore (1979) March 25th, 2020

I hope this image aligns with the text in a visually appealing way. I don’t know how to fix it if it’s ugly.

Yep, we needed a break from Hitchcock. Yep, we did skip ahead in The List… by 52 years, but that doesn’t really break the tenants of the list. As you may recall we started this blog with Outbreak (because of the coronavirus outbreak) and Leprechaun (because it was St. Patricks day). Neither of those were viewed in the order decreed by The List. We watched them anyway because they were temporally relevant which brings us to the clauses.

There are a few clauses that allow us to watch movies outside the ever growing and ever rigid order of The List.

  • The List order may not be violated under any condition but the following:
    A. The next film has pertinent relevance to current affairs or events.
    B. The next film is a new release or was seen in a theater/live event.
    C. The order of The List is suspended while attempting to watch 31 horror films during the month of October.
    D. The film is leaving a streaming service at the end of the current month. This clause should be activated at least once a month.

We used clause D today. Paul Schrader’s film Hardcore is slated to leave the Criterion Channel at the beginning of next month. There were only one or two other movies leaving this month that grabbed my attention but nothing so much as the story of George C. Scott as a midwestern Calvinist searching every cavity of California’s underground sex industry for his missing daughter.

I didn’t know anything about this movie before watching it. Like most people I know George C. Scott from his role as the tan pant wearing, military garbed and battle scarred scene stealing character who left his indelible mark across cinema history. McLeach from The Rescuers Down Under (at one point in Hardcore he says the name “Joanne” which is phonetically similar enough to Joanna that my jaw dropped). Obviously I’ve seen Patton and Dr. Strangelove but other than that I’ve only seen Changeling just last October (see clause C). Changeling is the most similar in tone to Hardcore out of the limited amount of his work I’ve seen.

Hardcore was a lot of fun for a movie about a woman disappearing into the sex industry. Like Liam Neeson in Taken, George C. Scott has a very particular set of skills that make him a nightmare for the people who took his daughter. The skills of a Calvinist! He’s armed with the belief that nothing we do in life, good or otherwise, has any effect on our admittance to the kingdom of heaven. And boy does he ever make use that ‘get out of hell free’ card. His character immerses himself in the seedy underworld of 1970’s Los Angeles in the search for his missing daughter. It gets delightfully seedy. Are you familiar with Paul Schrader’s Taxi Driver? Well it’s like that but more… well it doesn’t have a child prostitute per-se but it’s dark nonetheless. Honorable mentions to Peter Boyle as a private dick with a heart of… iron pyrite?

The Calvinist angle is the most intriguing part of the film. His character goes from a guy who doesn’t tolerate people swearing around him to hosting casting calls for stag films. I kept thinking about how his character must’ve allowed himself some sins in life without the promise that his actions will influence his entry to paradise. Those sins must’ve been his gateway to the debauched gutters of LA. It is nevertheless harrowing to watch a proud man sacrifice his pious mores to rescue his daughter.

In addition, Hardcore is visually delicious. Especially towards the climax when they start using lots of gels and the set design gets elaborate. That’s when my eyes were happiest.

In a bizarre twist, Star Wars plays a large role in this film. Let me set the scene. It’s 1978 and you’re shooting the next George C. Scott movie in LA. It’s all about porno movies and strip clubs and peep shows, all the stuff you can find easily in LA in the late 70’s right? Nothing short of a once in a lifetime culture bomb could change that ascetic and influence your film, right? Well too bad for you because Star Wars just premiered and it’s got a tractor beam on the global zeitgiest. Don’t worry about your beautiful shot of a brooding George C. Scott staring out a hotel window overlooking Hollywood Boulevard and Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Nothing short of a huge black billboard taking up the whole wall of the historic cinema with the words ‘STAR WARS‘ could fuck that up. Let’s say, hypothetically, that it does ruin your shot. You don’t have the budget to reshoot so you move on, maybe leaning into the Star Wars thing is the best idea? Let’s start small and put a calendar in the daughter’s bedroom. Yeah, nothing says high school girls room like Darth Vader choking a man to death. Sigh, if you’re going to go that far you might as well have a scene where two topless strippers are lightsaber fighting on stage in full view of our desensitized Calvinist hero. I don’t see any other option. That’s got to go in.

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