Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Ring of Fire

I finally got around to seeing the movie Walk the Line last night. That may come as some surprise to those who know what a HUGE Johnny Cash fan I am, but life has been hectic these past months, and I haven't been doing a lot of movie watching. But TFR got home from work early last night, and The Lad hit the hay early, so we were left with this strange, foreign concept called Free Time. At least that's what the legends passed down by the elders tell me it's called.

I had mentioned to TFR that Joaquin Phoenix, a PETA supporter, had refused to wear leather for the film and that all of the costumes were vinyl. She asked me if he also refused to wear cotton as well, and when I told her I wasn't sure, she asked, "But what about all those poor suffering Peter Cottontails?" My wife is weird.

The movie was well done. Phoenix didn't really LOOK all that much like Johnny, he certainly got hice voice, inflections, and mannerisms down well. The sound track -- not just Johnny's songs, but the entire background score as well -- was amazing (no surprise considering T Bone Burnett was the executive music producer). The lighting, the mood -- they really managed to evoke a certain feeling that helped tell the story.

The movie also did an excellent job showing the development of the relationship between Johnny and June. I was struck by just how fragile Johnny seemed, despite the bad boy image he cultivated with such calculated carelessness. It was June who brought that vulnerability out (as evoked by the shots we see of Johnny watching her when noone but the camera is watching, how genuine the look on his face is), and it was June who say through his disguise. The other thing I was struck by, and this was a well-known, well-documented aspect of their relationship, was just how feisty, strong, and level-headed June was. She not only stood up to Johnny, she backed him down. And while she was definitely his better half, she also made him better.

At one point early in the movie, when Johnny and his band are auditioning for Sam Phillips, and he tells Johnny to sing a song that he will believe -- and Johnny belts out Folsom Prison Blues. The raw anguish and anger are believable. At the end of the movie, as the epilogue and credits roll, they play a duet by Johnny and June -- not Joaquin and Reese this time, it's actually Johnny and June. And the joy, exuberance, and love that comes through the song is equally believable.

I remember the day Johnny Cash died. A friend of mine emailed me the news at work. The Regarding: line of the email really said it all: He must have really missed June.

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