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Paul Newman's adaptation of Ken Kesey's acclaimed novel finally gets a high-def release....
Shout! Factory / 114 Minutes / 1970 / Unrated / Street Date: December 18, 2012
Held as a curio in Paul Newman's esteemed career as his directorial debut, Sometimes a Great Notion is a curiously resolute piece of filmmaking, a drama that often feels cold and distant, but always beautifully so. Newman didn't start the film - he took over when problems with original director Richard A. Colla heightened - but the movie truly does reflect Newman's stoic, old-fashioned altruism: it's his, for sure.
It's a logging movie, a tale of strikes and money-coveting. Based on Ken Kesey's novel of the same name, Newman, Henry Fonda, and Michael Sarrazin all play loggers, each with a particular role to play as the basis of their family business gets upended. Newman plays the steady go-to guy, Sarrazin has a new way of doing things, and Fonda (as the patriarch) gets stuck in the middle of it. Both familial and occupational trials take sail, and Sometimes a Great Notion kicks into high gear.
This is a marvelous-looking film, and perhaps this very aesthetic draw is Sometimes a Great Notion's greatest asset. Newman handles his actors well (and turns in a fine performance of his own), but it's the steely impending force of nature that surrounds the melodrama here that really offers narrative echo here. Newman and company chew scenery with the best of them when their scenarios reach a fever pitch, but every time he cuts to the lonely panoramas of the Oregon forest, he reminds us that his characters (and we the audience, in turn) are just dust in the wind.