THE HAWK IS DYING (Julian Goldberger, 2006)

Since I recommended Trans, its maker, Julian Goldberger, has gone on to make a few more films, one of which I have now seen: The Hawk Is Dying, from the novel by Harry Crews. It’s a mixed bag, ultimately, a pseudo-mystical mess, but not without a certain affect, and with gorgeous nighttime videography by Bobby Bukowski suggesting a cross between waking nightmare and dark, almost Southern Gothic fable.
     Like Trans, the film is located in the State of Florida. The protagonist, George Gattling, operates a small automobile upholstering business; in his off-work hours, he is obsessed with hawks, a number of which have died during his attempts to train them. His autistic nephew, Fred, seems to have a profound, silent connection with the birds. Gattling lives with his sister, Precious (Rusty Schwimmer, heart-piercing), and Fred, who is her son and whom Gattling has raised with a father’s love after the boy’s biological father, upon discovering that Fred wasn’t “normal,” abandoned Precious and Fred.
     Gattling captures a captivating red-tailed hawk, and tragedy strikes. Goldberger, assisted by Bukowski, conjures some powerful dreamlike imagery; but the visual and every other aspect of the film are compromised by the lead actor’s impassive face (even when he is supposed to be crying!), unnuanced rendering of a complicated character, and annoyingly perfect, even teeth. Paul Giamatti gives an atrocious performance that scarcely ever strikes a believable note.

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