Monday, March 4, 2019

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot


There's something special about this one. A tale of an American hero who secretly assassinated Hitler during WWII, and then thirty or so years later is hired by the American and Canadians governments to kill another danger to the world in secret -- Bigfoot.

Written and directed by Robert D. Krzykowski.

The title really does say it all. Beyond the words even, the blatant subtext implies a legendary type of fantasy. And the no-nonsense wording endows the tale with a straightforward seriousness. It is all that. But at the same time, it's absurd. Its comedy is dark, high-brow, and embedded in the details and straight delivery -- yet it's all so ridiculous. It felt distinctly like a legend in the way they feel impossible yet are told with such succinct confidence that you halfway believe it anyway. The fairytale quality. A handful of movies have obtained it in various ways -- Tim Burton films mostly. None that I've seen do it quite in this niche though.

The Man is Calvin Barr, played by Sam Elliott when he's older, and Aidan Turner when he's younger. Elliott edges out being the lead and more THE character out of the two portrayals, but when Turner is doing his part, you don't actively miss Elliott. They share a grand character, and each have their share of grand moments. They match each other excellently. Turner does an American accent but doesn't do the impression thing which would have to be tempting when sharing a role with Sam Elliott. Instead they genuinely feel like the same person at very different stages of his life. As the scenes switch back and forth between times, you wonder and imagine what might've happened in the gap that leads him to where he is. And eventually of course, we find out.

With a mustache they look remarkably similar.

Supporting characters are fun, though only Calvin's brother (Larry Miller) and girlfriend in the 40's (Caitlin FitzGerald) get more than one scene. Those two play dramatic roles important to the plot. There's also cameo type bits: Ron Livingston and Rizwan Manji are the men who ask Calvin to come and kill the Bigfoot. Ellar Coltrane plays a convenience store clerk in one of my favorite scenes. That scene feels exactly like when you're miraculously able hold in a smile while something hilarious is happening. There's also a Russian man who tells Calvin's fortune by giving him a shave before he sets off to assassinate Hitler in what is probably my favorite scene of all. The whole movie is compiled of distinct scenes. Each one feels important and necessary, but the why of it is strangely hard to define.

What's in the box he keeps under his bed? Why can't he seem to find the pebble in his shoe? Is there a determinable deeper meaning here conveyed through symbolism, or are we simply meant to take what we pick up? A few times while he's giving a deep speech it feels like the movie brushes up against a theme, but it flashes too quickly to give us a firm grasp, like a forgotten memory that you almost remember. I don't say this as a bad thing or good. It feels natural because of how individually each scene and sequence exists, but at the same time I was eager to understand what it was saying in certain terms, and after two viewings it still feels ambiguous. Sincere and deep, but undefined.

I didn't mention that there's romance in this movie. Well there is.

What I decidedly liked I desperately wish there had been more of. Only one thing absolutely satisfied my appetite for the specific taste this movie possessed, and that was the cinematography. Absolutely, incredibly, beautiful in a way that makes me giddy to see. It was epic and dramatic, but not in a blockbustery, overblown way. It was simplified, simple, and stoic. From the silhouettes against raging fire or evening sky, to plain close-ups where Sam Elliott looks over his glasses at someone and turns for a moment into a work of art. I loved the look of this tale. Then, they start out with the makings of a great soundtrack but lose interest once the movie gets going. I wish so much that they'd kept that up.

The last thing I loved that I wanted more of was the surrealist elements. So many movies could easily count technically as surreal. Fantasy and objectively strange things abound and have become normal in art. But here, it takes on a tone of surrealism that makes you take notice of the uncanny and the strange in the same way you might if you encountered them in real life. Probably a harder thing to accomplish that it might seem. The feeling comes and goes here, in varying degrees of strength -- a mirror imaged clock as opposed to battling the Bigfoot on a cliff -- and for my money could have happened twice as often. Those were the places and the ways this film shines.

The only significant flaw was that it should've been even more of the strange way it was.

Simple, real-life, far-fetched fantasy. A fiercely unique juxtaposition of seriousness and absurdity, yet pleasant and welcoming in tone; somehow it all mixes together with help from many breathtaking views, several memorable moments, and two endearing performances. The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot may not be quite the stuff legends are made of, but since it is about the stuff legends are made of, some of that legendary status rubs off -- and even the brief and modest picture that results is gratifying.

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