Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Fat City in Sight & Sound

John Huston was a pretty good boxer in his youth. He claimed 23 wins from his 25 bouts as a teenager, winning the Amateur Lightweight Boxing Championship of California in the process, until a broken nose prompted him to consider less painful ways of making a living. One of the towns where he fought was Stockton, California, 80 miles east of San Francisco. When he returned there decades later to make Fat City (1972), the place had changed. The film opens with images of life on Skid Row: dilapidated buildings, boarded-up doorways, weary souls on the streets drinking their days away. Within a few years of the film's production, much of what we see on screen had been razed to the ground. “I wonder where all the poor devils who inhabited it have gone,” Huston mused in his autobiography An Open Book (1980). “They have to be somewhere.”