Friday, July 22, 2016

S.E. Hinton, the Original YA Rebel, and RUMBLE FISH

William Smith, Matt Dillon and Mickey Rourke in RUMBLE FISH (1983)

Author S.E. Hinton (born on this date in 1948) has written only one screenplay, and her literary output has been sparse - her best known work was written before she turned 30 - but her cultural impact has been significant. Legions of socially disaffected young people have gravitated to her novels of young Oklahomans over the years, and the characters she created in books like "The Outsiders" (1967), "That Was Then, This Is Now" (1971), "Rumble Fish" (1975), and "Tex" (1979), provided examples of cool kids - very cool kids - who could still feel pain and need others.

As the Young Adult Library Services Association stated when they gave Hinton the inaugural Margaret A. Edwards Award in 1988: in Hinton's novels "a young adult may explore the need for independence and simultaneously the need for loyalty and belonging, the need to care for others, and the need to be cared for by them."

Hinton with Matt Dillon, her favorite actor, and star of THE OUTSIDERS, RUMBLE FISH, and TEX

Francis Ford Coppola became a major admirer of Hinton and her works. His first Hinton adaptation was THE OUTSIDERS (1983). Much like the book, it was a medium-sized hit that continued to exert its influence over several decades. For many, it is one of the definitive movies and perceptive movies about the teenage years.

During the shoot of THE OUTSIDERS, Coppola and Hinton, who was on set as the film's technical adviser, began writing a script for an adaptation of "Rumble Fish." The idea was to make it as a low budget art film on many of the same locations with some of the same actors. Coppola stated that it was his "reward" for completing the difficult OUTSIDERS shoot. The resulting film is quite different from anything Hollywood could have expected. It is shockingly avant-garde in its black and white cinematography, sparse scene-blocking, and use of symbolic and elliptical storytelling techniques.

Today RUMBLE FISH is not an especially well known film, but it is highly prized and loved by those who have seen it. In 2014, Richard Linklater programmed the film for an AFS series and many of those who saw it for the first time hailed it as a masterpiece. Linklater's remarks about the film are here.

Take a second to watch the trailer and wonder with us why RUMBLE FISH has not become a canonized classic (also - LOOK AT THAT CAST!):

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