The Exiles

In 1958, a young USC film grad named Kent Mackenzie began work on The Exiles, “the authentic account” of young men loitering, drinking, and toiling in Los Angeles's Bunker Hill neighborhood.  This Native American Graffiti, steeped in improvised dialogue and wild naturalism, was put together as John Cassavettes was tinkering with his two versions of Shadows on the other coast.  Both Cassavettes and Mackenzie were unable to find distribution, although Cassavettes garnered acclaim at film festivals while Mackenzie's gritty masterpiece gathered dust and underground buzz. 


But now this vital and entertaining film has been restored and released.  The remarkably crisp restoration features bars and supermarkets that no longer exist and the old Angels Flight trolley making its recurrent diagonal climb.  Voieover testimonials buttress the dirty realism, which includes unapologetic burps during pork chop dinners, glimpses at reservations triggered by letters, inebriated walks through tunnels, abandoned mothers who must endure their partners pilfering rent money to play poker, early morning tribal songs punctuated by fistfights and car horns, and a desperate mimicking of piano upon a bar's sticky surface.  The alternative to these raucous follies are women confined to their apartments – some of them expecting more children and nearly all quiet enduring their adulterating and alcoholic husbands.  Solace comes through solo trips to the movies and lonely uphill strolls past donut shops and pharmacies.  But all of this is presented without judgment.  And it's the little details, such as a man sitting at a bar with a magazine covering his face, that create the feel of a living and breathing document.


The film itself should be enough, but the double DVD set is greatly augmented by a smorgasbord of extras, which include two audio appearances from the ebullient Sherman Alexie, where he confesses how hard it is to make non-stereotypical Native American cinema.  Thankfully, this must-have film exists to provide succor and inspiration for future filmmakers hoping to beat the odds.

July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).