Friday, March 18, 2011
Mask; Drama, USA, 1985; D: Peter Bogdanovich, S: Eric Stoltz, Cher, Sam Elliott, Laura Dern, Estelle Getty, Richard Dysart, Harry Carey, Jr.
California. The 16-year old Rocky Dennis suffers from craniodiaphyseal dysplasia that deformed his face, which is why he is a social outcast in school. His mother Rusty, a rebellious woman who hangs out with a biker gang, gives him strength to keep on living, but secretly takes drugs to suppress her depression. She even pays a young prostitute so that Rocky can lose his virginity, but he refuses. When he attends a summer camp for disabled, he meets the blind Diana and they fall in love. However, their parents are against the relationship. Since the disease progresses, Rusty finds Rocky dead one morning.
Peter Bogdanovich's "Mask", a biopic about Rocky Dennis, is probably one of the most honest depictions of disability of its time - unlike other Hollywood films where disabled protagonists are still shown as beaus and mannequins, just with a "minor flaw", here there was no attempt to make the hero's physically deformed face "appealing" to the wide audience, but to show it as it is, a burden. Displaying how the kind-hearted Rocky wonders throughout the whole movie how his life could have been if he was at least normal looking, and not a "freak", makes this one of the saddest stories of the 80s. The scene where the blind Diana touches his face but still says: "I think you are beautiful" is thus incredibly poignant and touching. Bogdanovich isn't such a master anymore as he was in the 70s, yet he still has a sure director's hand and motherly care for his despised characters, which gives the movie a humane touch: just like in "The Elephant Man", "Mask" contemplates about the themes of human dignity, "cursed fate", bigotry and intolerance. The maximum was achieved out of brilliant Cher as Rocky's mother Rusty, who won the best actress award at Cannes and was nominated for a Golden Globe, evident already in the opening sequence where she is walking with her Rocky in school - the students stare at him, but she just says; "What's wrong, never seen someone from planet Vulcan before?"