Rumble Fish (1983) -Francis Ford Coppola

The next title on the What Else to Watch list following DK Canada’s The Movie Book’s recommendation of The Godfather is Coppola’s adaption of S.E. Hinton’s classic novel.

Boasting an all-star cast, Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke, Dennis Hopper, Diane Lane (one of my first ever crushes that continues to this day), Laurence Fishburne, Vincent Spano, Nicholas Cage, Chris Penn, and Tom Waits, this black and white film serves as a callback to the hoodlum pictures of earlier years, but with stronger themes that resonate through the decades.

Rusty James (Dillon) is running a small gang, and trying to recall the heyday of his older brother The Motorcycle Boy (Rourke), someone he idolizes. But he can’t connect to anyone, his relationships are paper thin, and he has no interest in anything but being the equal of his brother.

Coppola shoots a gorgeous film, with fantastic framing and lighting, Hinton’s tale conveys a stunning power as Rusty James tries to navigate a world that isn’t what he wants it to be, and one that he doesn’t seem to fit into.


Even when The Motorcycle Boy tells him Rusty James that he is wrong about his beliefs, that things weren’t so great, even if those times may come back again, the young man refuses to believe him, and puts himself on a collision course with his own faults, and refusal to grow or change unless his brother can get through to him, and orchestrate the change he needs to survive, and escape the trappings of his mindset and his hometown.

Featuring a stunning score by Stewart Copeland, and beautiful images, the black and white imagery almost has a dreamlike quality that reaches off the screen and guides you in.

Despite visiting some familiar subject material, Coppola’s presentation is completely different from any of his other films, have more in common with his take on Dracula than The Godfather. Both of a unique visual style that verges on the dreamlike.

As such, this makes Rumble Fish one of my favorite Coppola films, it’s by turns cinematic, hallucinatory, and a poignant story of a lost young man, that ends with just a hint of hope.

Never having read the book growing up, this was my first introduction to the story, and I love how Coppola interprets it for the screen. There are of course countless folks who have grown up with the book, and the movie, and I am sorry to have missed it the first time round, but thanks to DK Books’ The Movie Book, I finally got to take a look at it.





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