Rumble Fish ★★★★½

Ditching the classical, Gone with the Wind-esque style employed in The Outsiders, Francis Ford Coppola tackled another S.E. Hinton novel in a more experimental, German expressionist style. It proved to be too experimental at the time, and The Outsiders ended up winning the turf war, but as time marches on, like it does in nearly every scene of Rumble Fish, the reception for this underrated classic has considerably improved.

Filmed in high-contrast black and white, with a few touches of color, to punctuate Motorcycle Boy's (Mickey Rourke) color blindness, Rumble Fish has been called "philosophy for teens", or more particularly, "Camus for teens". Rourke's interpretation of Motorcycle Boy, especially how he holds a cigarette in his mouth, was modeled after Albert Camus, after all. Motorcycle Boy, described as "royalty in exile", hangs over the smokey streets of Tulsa, Oklahoma, like a specter. They can't forget him because his mark, "The Motorcycle Boy Reigns", is tagged on every crumbling structure. He especially haunts his younger brother, Rusty James (Matt Dillon), who longs for those good ole rumbling days and to BE his brother. The good ole rumbling days are over with, though, and Rusty James gets a series of wake-up calls, including a surreal out-of-body experience, that clue him in that he's too "stupid" and daft to be as "great" his brother. As his drunk father (Dennis Hopper) puts it, Motorcycle Boy has an acute perception.

Rumble Fish is the most avant-garde film directed towards teens that I have ever seen. The black and white cinematography, the painted-on shadows, the time-lapse, Koyaanisqatsi-inspired photography, the surreal script, and the innovative soundtrack provided by The Police drummer, Stewart Copeland, all come together to form a mature and thought-provoking product. Compared to The Outsiders, Rumble Fish will take more than one viewing to absorb, and I dare say that it stands next to Apocalypse Now as one of Francis Ford Coppola's finest achievements.

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