"There was a time, before and after the "Godfather" Parts I and II, when Francis Ford Copola was a highly experimental filmmaker who could approach subjects on a smaller, subtler scale that would loom soulfully large in close-up. "Rumblefish", like "The Conversation", is a very good example. It's the story essentially of Rusty James, a 16-year-old living in a tenement in Oklahoma. Despite his youth, he has the vices of a much older man-drinking, smoking, fighting, and womanizing without any interference from what few adults remain in his life. His father is a lawyer, living on welfare, an alcoholic. His mother left when he was too young to remember. And he has only the memory of a legendary brother to give him guidance. Unfortunately Rusty hasn't the reputed intelligence of his mother or father or older brother, and so misunderstands the aura surrounding the legend and the stuff of which it was built. Rusty thinks the great accomplishment of his brother, otherwise known as the "motorcycle boy", was his presiding over a gang at a time when the gangs ran the streets. And he wants desperately to follow in that path. But little by little, his friends, his father, and the returning "motorcycle boy" himself show Rusty that he hasn't the intellect to lead the gang or the soul to be his brother. The "motorcycle boy" is regarded on the streets as royalty in exile. His father sees him as a great miscast figure in a play: as someone able to do anything, but unable to find anything he wants to do. And, in a final dispiriting mission, the "motorcycle boy" tells Rusty that he's wasted his time waiting for his return. He's no one's hero; no one's answer; no one's leader. If you're going to lead a people, you have to have somewhere to go. And it is perhaps at this point that we realize we're not so much watching the story of Rusty James as we are the world of the "motorcycle boy". We're really looking at the world through his eyes and ears, through the eyes and ears of a man who is colorblind and mildly deaf. We're looking at a world shot in black and white, where figures are back-lit to look gunmetal gray against flat backdrops, and move like white clouds racing across the gray sky in sequences shot through time-lapse photography. Shadows appear as thick as the things they skirt, some of which Copola actually had painted on the walls in a kind of distorted monochrome that is reminiscent of early German Expressionist cinema. Angles are drawn sharp and askew, and background action is framed in deep focus--through, beyond, or around a profile, an arm or a broken figure. And all noises--great and small--pull forward, thwarting any sense of conventional distance, time or relative scale of values. We hear water dripping, billiard balls clacking, machinery turning, delivered in the thick half-echo of a mic blues harp, having no greater or lesser value than the dialogue it serves to syncopate. The sense is very strong that we are seeing and hearing things as the "motorcycle boy" sees and hears them: through a broken, but acute sense of perception, as the father in a rare moment of lucidity calls it. There is always a sense that we are seeing and hearing the guts of the city, the innards of the compacted humanity, and all the mitigated impulses that surrender to drink and drugs and sex and violence for want of some bigger, wider, unprecious circumstance, such as the "motorcycle boy" suspects would prevent the Rumblefish, his term for Japanese fighting fish, from killing one another."
"He's like royalty in exile..."
Cubist | United States | 06/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Francis Ford Coppola's Rumble Fish was booed by its audience when it debuted at the New York Film Festival and in turn was viciously crucified by North American critics upon general release. They resisted the allure of such a dreamy, atmospheric film that works on so many levels. It is also Coppola's most personal and experimental project--on par with the likes of Apocalypse Now. Rumble Fish curiously remains one of Coppola's often overlooked films. This may be due to the fact that it refuses to conform to mainstream tastes and stubbornly challenges the Hollywood system with its moody black and white cinematography and non-narrative approach.Rumble Fish curiously remains one of Coppola's often overlooked films. It refuses to conform to mainstream tastes and stubbornly challenges the Hollywood system with its moody black and white cinematography and non-narrative approach.It was a movie clearly ahead of its time: a stylish masterpiece that is obsessed with the notion of time, loyalty, and family. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Coppola's film is that it presents a world that refers to the past, present, and future while remaining timeless in nature.Right from the first image, Rumble Fish is a film that exudes style and ambience. It opens on a beautiful shot of wispy clouds rushing overhead, captured via time lapse photography to the experimental, percussive soundtrack that envelopes the whole film. This creates the feeling of not only time running out, but also a sense of timelessness.As always, Coppola assembled an impressive ensemble cast for his film. From The Outsiders, he kept Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, Glenn Withrow, William Smith and Tom Waits, while casting actors like Mickey Rourke and Vincent Spano, who were overlooked for roles in the film for one reason or another. They all fill out their roles admirably, but Mickey Rourke in particular is mesmerizing as the Motorcycle Boy. He portrays the character as a calm, low key figure that seems to be constantly distracted as if he is in another world or reality.Every scene is filled with dreamy imagery that never gets too abstract but, instead, draws the viewer into this strange world. Coppola uses colour to emphasize certain images, like the Siamese fighting fish in the pet store--some of the only colour in the film--to create additional layers in this complex, detailed world."
Chemistry and Vision
Cubist | 02/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What makes a five star film? How about a cast starring Matt Dillon, Mikey Rourke, Dennis Hopper (and a cameo appearance by Tom Waits!), a soundtrack by Stewart Copeland (with a bit of Stan Rigeway!), a story by S.E. Hinton, and directed by Fracis Ford Coppola. This film is magic. It is modern impressionism shot in a timeless realm- a blackboard sky. Its more than rouge street kid getting into rumbles, its a story of fish that need to be set free, so they can swim to the ocean where there are no dividing lines. When this movie first came out in the early eighties, it got negative reviews and a cold public welcoming. As you can see here -an almost five star consensus- it was very ahead of its time. This movie probably hit the establishment like a bomb, which at the time was very conservative. All that aside, this is an extraordinary film- a true art piece of the silver screen- livid, bullish, and moving."
Francis Ford's masterpiece
Steven P. Flocco | Pennsauken, NJ USA | 10/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've always felt that this was a very underrated movie. Very innovative for it's time. Besides that, this dvd is worth buying almost exclusively for Francis Ford's Commentary. That made the Godfather DVD's worth buying and this is no different. his commentary gives you an insider's look at a genius film maker at work. Plus his warmth as a human being as always comes through very strong. Can watch it over and over."
..and now for something completely different...
Dean R. Brenna | AZ USA | 09/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rumblefish is a fantastic film and for more than the reasons stated repeatedly in these reviews. Coppola has done nothing less than present the audience with an allegorical tale of the Second Coming. Watch the film again and keep this in mind when you do.
-Scenes of "time" and "timelessness" Fitting for a story that should have both of these elements
-Rusty James is the "true beleiver"
-Steve is the "chronicaler"
-The Cop is the "adversary" Other characters in the film represent different aspects of the First Coming updated for the second.
-The Motorcycle Boy has been away and "returned" When he was "here" he brought a message of peace,united the gangs and stopped the fighting.
-The Motorcycle Boy went all the way to the "ocean" where his mother is and came back. (Consider the symbolism in the context of the Second Coming)
-The Motorcycle Boy is compared to Royalty (King of Kings?)
-Spray painted on a wall is the phrase " The MOtORCYCLE BOY REIGNS" All letters are in Caps except for the small "t" which in the film represents a familiar object.
There are many, many more uses of symbolism throughout the film, some more abstact than others (Think about what a motorcycle looks like from above). There are also pieces of dialogue which continue/enhance the symbolic thread.
I encourage anyone who loves this film as much as I do to take another look at it from this perspective and see what else you may find. As in any other great work of art, this film works on many levels, from a simple story to an awe-inspiring work of cinematic symbolism. It's all there.
I'll leave you with (1) more: The confrontation between the Motorcycle Boy and The Cop in front of a giant clock with no hands. A barely abstract symbol for timelessness. Beautiful.
P.S. The "Rumblefish" represent man, and the water represents salvation. The river will eventually reach the ocean. (symbolically speaking)
P.P.S. I am not affiliated with any Christian organization nor do I claim any other religion to be truer than another.