Friday, April 2, 2010

True Confessions (1981)

True Confessions has one of the biggest personal gross out moments of any film I’ve ever seen. In the film cop Robert Duvall is trying to track down the mad man who killed a young woman and cut her in half like the real life Black Dalia. The mystery has run him all over Los Angeles and the leads have caused him to run up against the local diocese of the Catholic Church where his brother, a priest played by Robert DeNiro, acts as a fixer. In the scene in question Duval has stumbled upon the location of the murder. And in a scenes that chills me every time I see it Duvall finds a bath tub. There is nothing special about the tub other than its caked with blood. My blood goes cold. Everyone I know who sees the film is unimpressed by the sequence because it’s just blood in a bath tub. I on the other hand know how much blood had to be spilled to get that tub that black. A small moment that seems like nothing but says volumes about something else, which is like the entire film.

For what ever this is a powerhouse film for me. It’s a wonderful film that seems to be about one thing but is really about another. The film starts out with the two older brothers meeting at a parish in the desert, it then shifts back in time to the event that brought them together, the murder of a girl connected to the church. Along the way the film takes the murder mystery framework and uses it to look at a tale that is less about who done it then it is about the salvation of the two characters. It’s a film about justice and family and doing the right thing. Its not so much a murder mystery, frankly I've seen this film at least 20 times since it came out and I can't say if we ever find out who did it.

Actually I have several friends who hate this movie because it’s not the mystery promised. To me it doesn't matter, because ultimately it is a very heartfelt and deeply spiritual film. Though, again some people don’t like it. Its too base, its too violent, and too questioning of the Church. It annoys some people. Friends of mine who were in a Catholic book/film club ended up getting into nasty fights over the film. They wanted to have the film be a point of discussion, but the people running the club found it’s depiction of salvation not to their liking. An underground circulation of the film happened as people decided to make up their own minds. Most of the people were moved by the film.

I’m moved too.

This is a solid little drama. It’s a wonderful film that people don’t talk about much any more, or if they do they speak dismissively of it as if it’s a missed opportunity. I don’t think it’s a missed opportunity. I think it’s a splendid film. Make an effort to rent it or see it on the occasional run on TV.

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