Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Michael Cimino / U.S., 1974):

The Seventies road-movie's cowboy-rambler side and oblique-queer side in full flower, Michael Cimino conducts the sustained game of footsie. "Tell me where, where does a fool go..." From the start, a painterly eye purposefully jangled: Wyeth field and church, a dusty car pulls into the composition, Clint Eastwood at the pulpit finishes his sermon and dodges the visitor's bullets. The bogus preacher is Thunderbolt, Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges) is the wandering joker who crosses his path in a freshly filched car, quite the meet-cute. Another couple joins them, truculent clowns in black suits (George Kennedy and Geoffrey Lewis), and, in between mocking domesticity and contemplating Montanan horizons, a heist is planned. "You sure are one lost dude, aren't you?" Dassin's Rififi and Schatzberg's Scarecrow are the two sides of Cimino's coin, a Panavision vista dotted with curious gags (crazy Bill McKinney with a trunk full of bunnies) and sneaky symbolism (stolen loot stashed behind the blackboard of an abandoned schoolhouse). Building up to a caper means getting a real job, and there's the two thick thugs crammed inside a tiny ice-cream truck getting told off by a bourgeois tyke. Kennedy in Cool Hand Luke informs the suburban mirage of the bare housewife behind the glass pane, on the other hand the lass on wheels negotiates her catcaller with a handy hammer. Pictorial majesty and nervous streaks, the distinctively American openness and violence of the freeway, prayers and poems and history and progress in raffish flux. "And the leopard shall lie down with the kid," yet the affair can only be consummated subliminally—Lightfoot in girlish drag hides a pistol in his pantyhosed behind and a cut gives Thunderbolt in the vault with erect cannon. "I don't know, but it do present mind-boggling possibilities." Cimino helps himself to Midnight Cowboy for the ending, a suggestive sketch to be ballooned into The Deer Hunter. Cinematography by Frank Stanley. With Catherine Bach, Gary Busey, Roy Jenson, Jack Dodson, Vic Tayback, Burton Giliam, and Dub Taylor.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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