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Wise Blood 1979 *****

John Huston’s final film was one of the best of a legendary career; The Dead was a brilliant adaptation of James Joyce’s short story. But 1979’s Wise Blood, an adaptation of one of Flannery O’Connor’s two books, is every bit as well-drawn, and considerably more ambitious. A young man named Hazel Motes (Brad Dourif) arrives in a Deep South city from an unspecified war, only to be identified by his hat and neat clothes as a preacher. Motes is anything but holy, shacked up with a prostitute and without much love for his fellow man. After meeting a fake-preacher (Harry Dean Stanton) and his daughter (Amy Wright), Motes decides to become a self-styled evangelist, and forms his own Church of Christ without Christ. Dan Shor (Ram from Tron) is a devotee of Motes’ teaching, but a chance encounter with a mummified museum piece and a man in a gorilla suit send him in a different direction. Wise Blood is an allegory, but of a wry and intelligent kind that’s peppered with memorable moments and scenes, impeccably played and with a terrific score by Alex North. Huston’s later output is often seen as self-indulgent, but Wise Blood is a great film for the ages.

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