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Donald Sutherland was a revolutionary in Hollywood

Donald Sutherland was a revolutionary in Hollywood
Donald Sutherland was a revolutionary in Hollywood

The 70s changed not only the world but also Hollywood: The big studios were going into crisis, the independent ones were bursting in at levels never reached before, and a new generation, that of rage, that of Woodstock, that of angry motorcyclists, that of the “counterculture”, took over the cinema.

A fundamental book defines this new Hollywood generation: “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls” (title that traces an arc between “I am looking for my destiny”, from 1969, and “The Wild Bull”, from 1980, with which the cycle closes), within which there are faces inextricably associated with them. Among the actors, one of the fundamental, essential, is the Canadian Donald Sutherland, who died today in Miami at the age of 88.

Biting, incisive, tender when he wanted to be, sometimes wild to unbearable extremes, an aspect that exploded John Schlesinger in the 1974 hit, “Like a plague of locusts” (“The Day of the Locust”), Sutherlandafter having been one of the “Twelve of the Gallows” (1967) by Robert Aldrich, came to international fame at the beginning of that decade thanks to two unsurpassed films of modern comedy.

The first was “MASH” by Robert Altman set in a field hospital, a film filled with the most refined black humor (and whose impact later gave rise to the creation of a miniseries); the second, unfortunately already forgotten but very popular at the time, “Kelly’s Heroes” by Brian Hutton), in whose unrepeatable cast he was accompanied Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, John Landis, Harry Dean Stanton and even Yves Montand, It was the story of a division of the American army that intended, on its own, to loot a Nazi treasure to become rich. Sutherland played a drug-addicted colonel who commanded a damaged tank.

The success of both films immediately led to him starring in one of the most tense and exciting film noir productions of the time: “The past condemns me”, “Klute”, by Alan Pakula, where Sutherland already shared the bill with Jane Fonda (and, it is said, they continued an intense relationship off-screen).

Immediately, in “Little murders” (1971), from Alan Arkinshared the poster again with Elliot Gouldwith whom a year before they had been having fun and having fun in “MASH”, in what seemed like the consolidation of a duo that, unfortunately or the lack of vision of the producers, did not prosper over time. But two years later he would achieve another resounding box office success, this time with Julie Christie.

The film was called “Don’t look now”, renamed in Argentina as “Venecia Rojo Shocking”, and it was one of the titles that lasted, for several seasons, in the late nights of the Diagonal Norte Arte cinema. The film, a gothic horror story, was based on a tale of Daphne Du Maurierthe same author who gave cinema arguments as fantastic as that of “Rebecca”, by Alfred Hitchcock.

At that point, sutherland He was a global celebrity, and he spent the rest of the 70s starring in one film after another, not always with the same good judgment in choosing projects (such as the forgettable sequel to “The Body Usurpers”). That was one of the worst marks of her career: the little sense that she, at the peak of success, had to reject successful films, such as “Violence is among us”, by John Boormanwhich he ended up doing Burt Reynoldsand accept mediocre scripts instead.

In the middle of the decade, summoned by two greats of the Italian screen, he made “Casanova” by Fellini (which will never be the most remembered film by the director of “Eight and a half”) and Bernardo Bertolucci, who gave it a different shine in the monumental “Novecento”in two parts, where he shared the bill with Robert De Niro in a cast full of Hollywood and Italian figures.

In 1980, Robert Redford It opened a new stage in his career, a moment of full dramatic maturitywith the extraordinary “Ordinary People”. In that film, winner of numerous Oscars, sutherland He played the father of a family marked by the tragedy of the death of a son in a swimming pool. His wife was Mary Tyler Moore, her other son Timothy Hutton (who carried the stigma of believing himself guilty for not having managed to rescue his brother) and Judd Hirschin the unforgettable role of the psychologist of the surviving son.

The race of sutherland changed since then: the “countercultural” stage had been left behind along with the 70s, and their roles diversified. Maybe too much. He made some good cops, like “Tragic Innocence” with Faye Dunaway; participated in a failed blockbuster, like “Revolution” by Hugh Hudson, starring Al Pacinoand even accepted comedies like “Students are not virgins”.

With the arrival of the 90s he was summoned by important directors for distinguished roles, but no longer leading ones, like the one he did in the “JFK” by Oliver Stonewhere he played an enigmatic Pentagon character called Mister “Virus” or “Epidemic”; sex-thrillers like “Sexual harassment”with Michael Douglas and Demi Moore and already in the 2000s in period films such as “Pride and Prejudice” or youth sagas like “The Hunger Games”. His appearances marked quality in those titles, but his brilliance from the 70s was long gone, the decade in which he surfed with his genius and figure, and in which cinema changed forever.

Source: Ambito

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