Euphoria 57: Duelling Banjos

I asked film student Christina Alepi if she could think of an example of Cinema Euphoria AGES AGO, but she finally came up with one, a doozy. (Cinema Euphoria: those little moments of movie magic that brighten your day and send you off with wings a-flutter. Aw.)

DELIVERANCE is not a film widely associated with innocent pleasure, but this sequence is justly celebrated. Some famous actors in their prime, ravishing wide-screen photography, a rather remarkable young musician, astonishing music — and some of the most effective use of simple shot-countershot decoupage in film history. With a few asides from the other characters, this is all just back and forth cutting between our musicians, with Boorman elegantly building the scene up, helped immeasurably by SUBLIME editing by Tom Priestley (son of the more famous but no more talented J.B. Priestley — stick with me kids, it’s not much fun but it’s educational).

The treatment of a character with learning difficulties strikes me as balanced and, on the whole, fairly sensitive. Maybe by accident. The city slickers are a little contemptuous of his “in-breeding”, but we’re not meant to wholly sympathise with them anyway. At least the kid has talent.* This contrasts with the clod-hopping brutishness of director John Boorman’s EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC, which features Downs Syndrome people wandering in flocks through its psychiatric hospital, a piece of distasteful sensationalism motivated by nothing at all — psychiatric illness and learning difficulties are not treated in the same institutions, as basically everybody knows.


With the pleasure — always a little malaise. We may feel compassion for the disabled boy, or a little primitive fear. We enjoy the scene, but a touch of unease is generated. We carry this with us on our journey downriver.

It will grow.

*He doesn’t have the physical characteristics of Williams Syndrome, but one of its more unexplained psychological symptoms is the great passion for music in nearly all Williams people, often coupled with considerable musical aptitude. The last chapter of Oliver Sacks’ book Musicophilia is a good source for information here.

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