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Second Time Around 

Wednesday, Dec 11 1996
A couple of decades after its original 1972 release, this landmark adventure movie has achieved new relevance as Iron Johns of every variety follow its antiheroes' quest into the wilderness, to bond and to seek their most authentic selves. The attitude of the movie, though, is skeptical and sardonic. Four middle-class Georgians canoe down the untamed, soon-to-be-dammed Cahulawassee River, and the inspired director, John Boorman, presents the ensuing survival drama as high macho adventure and nightmare. Under the guidance of a blustery outdoorsman named Lewis (Burt Reynolds, in a potent daredevil performance), the mild-mannered, pipe-smoking Ed (Jon Voight) proves himself in rites of violence. One of their companions is raped, and the other killed. James Dickey's novel depicted the wild river trip as an enrichment for Lewis and Ed, despite the dire consequences for their friends, the affable Bobby (Ned Beatty) and the sane, gentle Drew (Ronny Cox). Boorman, however, cleaves to a spooky, neutral tone. The combined attractiveness and foolishness of taking extreme action is the point of the film, which is both gut-clutching and mesmerizing. Boorman captures the spring of a canoe when the current snags it, the terror of a vertiginous drop, the ominous stillness of a gorge. He achieves poetic precision even when the men are shooting the rapids. As shot in Panavision by Vilmos Zsigmond and edited by Tom Priestley, the movie has a mysterious beauty, like a landscape that changes drastically from dusk till dawn. Dickey wrote the script and plays a lawman.

-- Michael Sragow

Deliverance screens Saturday, Dec. 14, at 1, 5:35, and 10 p.m. (with The Exorcist at 3:10 and 7:40 p.m.) as part of the wide-screen series at the Castro, 429 Castro (at Market). Tickets are $4-6.50; call 621-6120.

About The Author

Michael Sragow


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