A to Z of MyLawyerWillCallYourLawyer: F

An occasional series where Astrid & Nick go through their cinema alphabet

Nick :
The Fondas
Has there been a cinema dynasty as memorable as the Fonda family? Henry and his offspring Jane and Peter (and grand daughter Bridget). Each would bring differing personality, a varied perspective, radical political ideologies – and at various times of course - they would light up our screens. Henry Fonda was/is the greatest stand up guy in American cinema. He was an honest screen presence. Only Clint Eastwood would later pick up Fonda's earnest cinema mantle. He was a liberal and he represented the working man in American pre and post second world war cinema (Grapes Of Wrath, The Wrong Man & 12 Angry Men). Senior Fonda was a war veteran in real life with some of his celebrated roles reflecting this (The Longest Day, Battle Of The Bulge). But my favourite type of Henry Fonda film were his Westerns. Let's see now, amongst those you'll find Jesse James, Drums Along The Mohawk, The Ox-Bow Incident, My Darling Clementine, Fort Apache, How The West Was Won and the game changing Once Upon A Time In The WestOnce Upon A Time In The West introduced us to a new Henry, the cold blooded killer of children capable of immense cruelty. Sergio Leone's western intentionally cast Henry as the bad guy, playing against type, the blue eyed good guy of the US left turns evil. It turned out to be inspired casting from Leone as Fonda creates one of the most memorable screen villains. Henry Fonda made over 100 films. I can't say I've seen anywhere near all of them (but I've watched a few). Henry is always good, whatever the role. In my mind he is simply one of the great actors.

Henry Fond as Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Jane Fonda is easily recognisable as an icon of the last century whose off screen activities are as well know as her movies (Hanoi Jane, Jane Fonda's Workout). But if you take a closer look, there are some real movie gems in Jane Fonda's closet. But first, lets get it out of the way, Barbarella (directed by former hubby Roger Vadim). Barbarella sexualised Fonda for a new generation but the film is astonishingly kitch and in truth is a personal embarrassment for Fonda. Despite this you'll find a couple of good movies from her 1960's work (The Chase, They Shoot Horses Dont They?) Her prime period came in the 1970's when Fonda started to mix her growing political and counter-culture ideology with her acting choices. A string of great movies appeared: Klute, Steelyard Blues, Coming Home, Comes A Horseman and The China Syndrome. After this period there isn't much of note, other than the sentimental nonsense of On Gold Pond (her father Henry's last picture). Jane Fonda was equally reviled as she was loved at the hight of her fame mainly due to her feminism and political stances.  She was outspoken and brave and made a difference. She remains underrated as an actress. Jane rode a wave of political cinema that gripped and entertained audiences in the 1970's. Fonda contributed her fair share to this new politicised cinema  of the 1970's, New Hollywood.

Jane Fonda with Donald Sutherland in the excellent thriller Klute (1971)
Peter Fonda is probably the least celebrated of the Fonda clan. Easy Rider and what the film came to represent means that Peter Fonda will probably go down in history as the zeitgeist figure of the family. A counter cultural milestone of the late 1960's, Easy Rider was a huge success and gave a youth of the day perspective to the increasingly influential New Hollywood movement. Easy Rider's success gave Fonda power and carte blanch to do what he wanted. Interestingly, he worked a lot in what would become cult movies (The Last Movie, Westworld, Race With The Devil). He did star in and direct one bona fide classic after Easy Rider with the western The Hired Hand in 1971. A picture that was lost at the time, The Hired Hand found a highly impressed critical audience when reissued in the early 2000's. There have been many cameos since (and an Oscar nom. for Ulee's Gold), but he will forever be the cool biker in Easy Rider. I don't really like Easy Rider, but Fonda is one of the better things about the movie along with Jack Nicholson. It's always amazed me how such a hippie cliché  of a film became so important. Peter is also Bridget's dad, but that's maybe for another time. The Fondas in their own way, have left us some magic.

Peter Fonda in Easy Rider (1969)

Fucking Åmål (1999)

With Fucking Åmål Lukas Moodysson has made a great film with adolescent and child stars. He deals with the school environment, isolation from the narrow accepted norm, bullying and difference as well as love, much in the same vain as Tomas Alfredson in Let The Right One In. Both are very real movies that mix in the fantastical and see life as both tragic and wonderful at the same time. Let The Right One In is probably more stylish and more developed than Fucking Åmål, but for me the latter is forever important. A funny coincidence that both films are Swedish.

I was a 17-year-old high school girl when I saw Fucking Åmål for the first time. I could relate to nearly everything on screen on some level. I felt seen and heard after the movie. I felt elevated. It is crucial to see Fucking Åmål as not only a story about being a daughter, a pupil and a teenager, it's a movie about finding love and sexuality outside the hetero norm – It's a celebration of being a young lesbian. Elin and Agnes were characters in a time that could only dream of a TV series called The L-Word.

I'm not sure how the film would look now to my Gender Studies -enlightened and cinema viewing experienced
eyes. I did not re-watch the movie before writing this. It's just that all I could think of for letter F was fucking (Åmål). It's possible that being a lesbian appears as a 'youthful phase' on hetero route, and it's likely that the things that resonated with me nearly 15 years ago, do not resound any longer...I hope not, because in a couple of years I'll be watching Fucking Åmål again with a dearly beloved teenage girl I'm helping to bring up. And while we sit on the sofa together I hope she will feel a little bit comforted and understood as I once did. 


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts