Do you love DELIVERANCE but find it too mannered and insufficiently attentive to mother-daughter dynamics? A lyrical cousin to John Boorman’s tight-lipped landmark of Southern sadism, SHY PEOPLE is one of the most unclassifiable artifacts of ’80s cinema, a grindhouse melodrama rife with contradictions.
The expansive vision of bayou life exudes a bathroom-stall graffiti vibe, but its international pedigree is second-to-none: intermittently ambitious Israeli exploitation mavens Golan and Globus, fresh off their first Oscar-nominated production, RUNAWAY TRAIN sent that film’s Russian auteur Andrei Konchalovsky to shoot on location in Louisiana, working from a script by Roman Polanski’s frequent collaborator, Frenchman Gérard Brach, and topped it all off with a score from German electronica favorite Tangerine Dream.
The cultural dislocation behind the camera is mirrored on screen, with Jill Clayburgh starring as a jet-setting Cosmopolitan journalist whose genealogy research sends her and daughter Martha Plimpton to a haunted swamp, with Louis Vuitton bags and The Cure paraphernalia in tow. There they meet distant relative Barbara Hershey and her unruly brood, who aren’t eager for a family reunion with unscrupulous city folk. Nestled among the trill of mosquitoes and speedboats and Chris Menges’s astonishingly humid ‘Scope cinematography is a surprisingly sensitive study of families and the work required to keep them above water. Hershey won a Best Actress citation at Cannes, but the cash-strapped producers dumped SHY PEOPLE on the gator circuit for a quick buck. “With slightly different handling,” lamented Roger Ebert, “SHY PEOPLE could have been a best-picture Oscar nominee.”
Preceded by: “Kudzu” (Marjorie Anne Short, 1977) – 16 min – 16mm *Encore Presentation!*