Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
"The Scoundrel's Wife" takes place in the small but real bayou fishing village of Cut Off, La., during World War II. German submarines have been sighted offshore, and the Coast Guard suspects local shrimp boat operators of trading with the enemy. If the premise seems far-fetched, the movie's closing titles remind us that some 600 vessels were attacked by U-boats in American coastal waters, and the movie's plot is inspired by stories heard in childhood by the director Glen Pitre, who lives in Cut Off to this day.
Pitre is a legendary American regional director, a shrimper's son who graduated from Harvard and went back home to Louisiana to make movies. His early films were shot in the Cajun dialect, starred local people, and played in local movie houses where they quickly made back their investment. I met him at Cannes and again at the Montreal festival--French enclaves where he was being saluted as arguably the world's only Cajun-language filmmaker.
He broke into the mainstream with "Belizaire the Cajun" (1986), starring Armand Assante as a Cajun who defends his people's homes against marauding bands of Anglo rabble-rousers. Found guilty of murder, he stands on a scaffold between two (symbolic?) thieves and tries to talk his way free. He's sort of a bayou version of Gandhi, restraining his anger, able to see the comic side of his predicament, possessed of physical strength and quiet charm.
Now Pitre is back with "The Scoundrel's Wife," again filmed near home, with local extras joining stars such as Tatum O'Neal, Julian Sands, Tim Curry, Lacey Chabert and Eion Bailey (of "Band of Brothers"). The film is frankly melodramatic and the climax is hard to believe, but the movie has such a fresh sense of place and such a keen love for its people that it has genuine qualities despite its narrative shortcomings.