reading david denby's piece about summer movies this evening in the new yorker
, denby's choice of summer film is a long favorite of mine. not that i own a copy - i've seen this movie dozens of times thru the years and i have large swaths of it memorized. quest for fire
is an ambitious film bereft of intelligible dialogue. it is a caveman movie about how the world, and its occupants, are changing. the plot is simple: fire is the most precious resource for all sentient beings, yet for one tribe they do not know how to make fire. they only know how to keep it going. going until the keeper of the fire drops the tribe's last ember in a swamp. hence, three members of the tribe - including actor ron perlman - must head out and seek the life-sustaining stuff.
i don't agree with denby's assessment of the film so much. it's more than a summer film. it's a long overlooked gem. but perhaps my own critical eyes are askew regarding the time i first saw the movie. a local shopping mall, arden fair, recently remodeled their cineplex in 1982 with 2 large theaters with surround sound. quest for fire
was the very first film i saw there. it was an astonishing film-going experience. for the movie is all ambient sound. from the clatter of rocks falling to the sound of sabre-tooth tigers roaring in the distance.
the open vistas of an earth still largely free of human occupation is also a breathtaking foray for the senses. there is a remarkable scene as the camera retreats into the distance and all you can see in the frame is a speck of light from the campfire of a tribe. this is a movie that benefits from the big screen.
given that there is no dialogue, information is conveyed by body language. some parts are played for laughs, while other moments are fairly dour in their complexion. be that as it may, the movie is ravishes the beholder. there really isn't any movie to rival it.
perlman, as i mentioned, is in the cast. so is rae dawn chong, who is a member of a more advanced tribe. one that can make fire, and when she shows our three heroes how it's down, their walnut-sized brains are blown away. but it is a film where no one star steals the show. the movie is an ensemble piece, and what does it matter anyway. all the actors are wearing make-up and prosthetics. it is the grunts and body language that matter. and the special fx are gorgeous. pre-history has never looked so palpable onscreen.
you can catch this flick every now and then on tv. don't wait, if you've not seen this movie before, put it on yr netflix queue, or seek it out at the video store. it really is a quiet, movable feast for the senses.