BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
The third major version of the mutiny against the monster Bligh, Roger Donaldson’s The Bounty is an indifferent economized psycho-sexological drama that—despite its twenty five million dollar price tag, despite Anthony Hopkins working his ass off to provide a private storm of pathology, and probably because of Robert Bolt’s gutted script (originally meant to be filmed as two separate epics by David Lean) that had been touted to be closer to purported fact than the other versions—is without much enticement; smudged all over it is pedestrian toil, the worst possible kind for a sensual epic. Even with the comely Mel Gibson, the addictively sensuous is missing. It gets blamed, though—Hopkins’s Bligh tells us that the degenerate “sexual excess” of Tahiti is the root cause of his men’s mounting displeasure, but neither the look of the picture via Arthur Ibbetson’s photography nor the abundant free sex have the allure needed to confirm it. There’s a resignation hanging about—a “let’s get it done and outta here” attitude. And Ibbetson doesn’t help much by bringing the camera so near the actors that we’re obliged to read meaning into the close-ups: Prudish Bligh appears obsessed with Fletcher’s sexual activities and becomes a disciplinarian to overcome his own insecurities; Fletcher seems bored of the Bounty’s mission, wants to escape back to his Tahitian wife and prefers anyone else but himself to lead the mutiny against Bligh. That second purposed trip around the Horn finally convinces him to lead the charge and his “I am in Hell” rupture is one of moviedom’s most discomforting seizures of power. (We’ll hear echoes of it in those infamous 2010 taped phone conversations.) To capsulize the essence of the incalculable number of words in the roughly 2,000 books written about the famous rebellion, Bolt provides Bligh with this underlining cause: “How could Fletcher betray my friendship?” What historians do agree on: the justice rendered by the British Admiralty was rigged—it couldn’t afford not to acquit Bligh. With Philip Davis as Young (who accidentally suggests both Billy Budd and his tormentor); Liam Neeson before he matured into attractiveness; Daniel Day Lewis posing (again!); Laurence Olivier, Edward Fox, Bernard Hill.
Text COPYRIGHT © 2007 RALPH BENNER All Rights Reserved.