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Cutter's Way

  • Cinematheque 4022 Vilas Hall Madison, WI 53706 USA (map)

A bleak murder mystery funnier than it has any business being explores the aftermath the 1960s protest movements. Info

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A truly nasty little piece of bummer film-making, Cutter’s Way is a sordid, nihilistic gem of the post-Vietnam/post-Watergate era. Jeff Bridges plays Bone, a directionless slacker and part-time gigolo who spends most of his time getting drunk with his friend Cutter (John Heard), an alcoholic one-eyed, one-armed, one-legged Vietnam veteran. When Bone witnesses someone dumping a body in an alley, Cutter comes up with a plan to blackmail the wealthy man they believe is responsible. The plan quickly falls apart and leads to a violent garden-party showdown.

A bleak and darkly comic film, Cutter’s Way (also released as Cutter & Bone) fits in nicely at the tail-end of the 1970s cycle of paranoid, noir-influenced cinema. With a haunting Jack Nitzsche soundtrack and oddly soft-focus cinematography by Jordan Cronenweth, director Ivan Passer fills Cutter’s Way with a stifling atmosphere. The film also features incredible performances from both Bridges and Heard, whose manic portrayal of the tortured, rage-filled Cutter is both utterly repulsive and unexpectedly charming. While we can laugh as he gleefully crashes into his neighbor’s car, Cutter’s alcoholism and toxic masculinity make him a uniquely repellent character. By no means a feel-good movie, Cutter’s Way turns thriller/noir conventions inside-out to create a moody, class-conscious tragedy. —Ian Adcock

Earlier Event: June 28
LunArt Festival
Later Event: June 29
Cold Water (free)