212 - Hud (1963)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
Happy Belated Valentine's Day for Thursday everyone! I treated myself to the 212th film of the 500 as a romantic treat while the girlfriend was out serving loved-up couples dinner at her evening shift. I know, I know. If it's any consolation I did get her a card. From Asda.

OK, so Hud isn't exactly the most mushy film to watch on Valentine's Day. The protagonist, Hud (Paul Newman), is a nasty piece of work, not caring about his family and showing even less regard for the law. His elderly father, Homer, owns the ranch that he lives on with his nephew, Lon, and housekeeper, Alma.

While Hud is out being a playboy for all of the town's married women, Homer discovers that one of the cattle has contracted foot and mouth - jeopardising the future of the ranch. Meanwhile, Lon isn't sure which father figure to follow - the brash, risk-taking Hud or the hard working, mild-mannered Homer.

I must be honest, I wasn't sure what to  expect when I picked up Hud. I saw Paul Newman in his Stetson on the DVD cover and expected a Western, and watching the first few scenes only seemed to agree with that conclusion. It seems that my opinion of the appearance of America in the 1960's was slightly skewed.

The other misconception I took into the film is that Hud would be the good guy. If there is one thing I've learnt from watching films, it's that your protagonist should be likeable - or, at the least, have something about them to cling on to when hope is nigh. Hud doesn't, because Hud isn't. He never shows a hint of empathy in his headlong charge to relationship suicide.

Affectionately known as the "strangle hug"
But somehow, against the odds, Hud works. How or why is beyond me, but I would hazard a guess that it is very much to do with director James Wong Howe's decision to shoot in the unforgiving black and white. Filming in monochrome adds a sense of raw distaste which - since the 1960's at least - suggests that the film isn't supposed to be liked; merely watched and appreciated for its acting and direction.

At this point, I should point out that colour film had been favourable for at least 20 years prior to Hud but monochromatic filming was still popular - Hud won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography in the Black & White category.

Despite the obvious restrictions of monochrome, the landscape is breathtaking. Sure, it's a sparse environment where the only life away from a few disease-ridden bovine is an outdated town square, but there is a certain beauty that would never work in full colour.

While Hud will stay with me for a long time for being the film that shouldn't work, it is so well directed - and acted - that it would be hard not to give it 5 stars, right?


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