I was feeling a little depressed last week when I settled in for my screening of The Backwoods on my laptop. I know, I know, watching movies on one’s laptop is not primo, not if you’re a REAL CINEMA fan, but as I said I was feeling low and liked the idea of holding off on leaving my bed for as long as possible.
The Backwood’s ranking on the Oldometer: 4 and a half/10
Gary Oldman character quality: Paul isn’t a good guy in the slightest, and thus I don’t think we’re supposed to like him as much as I did, but he is a forceful, active character who is wrapped up in his ideas about what Manliness is, and that’s interesting. Paul is an intriguing break in between Jim Gordon roles for Oldman (he still sports the signature stache, even), and is a nice reminder of the powerful characters Oldman can take charge of. He’s pretty darn magnetic in the role.
Does Gary die in this one? Yeah, and then it’s all downhill from there.
Gary Oldman character quality: If Martin were written to be real flesh and blood, this character would not make a whit of sense, however as we are not sure how much of him is real, Oldman has the chance to get weird, and boy does he. Martin is the best aspect of the film.
Does Gary die in this one? No. Yes? Was he ever alive? This is up for debate.
Track 29 (1988), its title a reference to the old tune “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” opens with an almost painfully young and wiry Gary Oldman as the very unhinged, very British Martin, who seemingly materializes on a backroad in North Carolina. He wears a pair of sunglasses in the fashion of John Lennon’s famous coke-bottle spectacles, and as he holds his thumb out for a ride, the soundtrack kicks in with Lennon himself wailing his signature song “Mother.” Suddenly, Martin throws his head back and screams “MUMMEEEEEEEEEE!” to the heavens for no apparent reason. Batten down the hatches, director Nicolas Roeg warns us. You’re about to see some weird stuff.
Unless you’re really into movies, you probably haven’t heard much about Track 29. Its appeal was probably limited from the get-go, and since its release it has, I imagine, faded into near-obscurity. After watching it, I can see why it’s not exactly celebrated, despite the fact that it boasts an early, totally go-for-broke lead performance from Baby Gary Oldman and a queasy supporting turn by Christopher Lloyd (forever Doc Brown to most of us). Nicolas Roeg, who is also responsible for The Man Who Fell To Earth (Bowie!),Don’t Look Now (Donald Sutherland! Dwarves!), and The Witches (Anjelica Houston forever!), clearly a respectable director, seems to go out of his way to make this story unpleasant. Still, there’s something outlandishly appealing to it, in a chintzy kinda way.