Lost Film ~ Cutters Way

cutters way

Cutter’s Way emerged at the wrong time, a 70s film in 1981, after Heaven’s Gate, during the death rattle of the ‘Hollywood brats’ era. We were now in Reagan’s America, where odd, ambiguous little films that suggested dark truths about the US of A would become increasingly unwelcome. Its titular character was the wrong kind of Vietnam veteran, a painful reminder of the actual war, alcoholic and bitter and missing a couple of limbs, just before Stallone told us that Vietnam was a brutal wonderland where men went to gain magic powers. In the year beforeRaiders of the Lost Ark, here was a film suggesting that heroism is a murky business where ordinary people end up paying the highest price. Like I said, the wrong time.


Cutter’s Way is a kind of sunset noir, a dark tale bathed in a golden West Coast glow. Santa Barbara is a weathered, frazzled, beautiful town of marinas, polo matches and shabby tourist tat. Cutter, Bone and Mo are clearly at the shabbier end of the social scale, but are able to mingle with the smart set and play with their toys through business and family connections. Jeff Bridges plays ‘golden boy’ Bone, a half-arsed gigolo and yacht salesman hired to look good on deck. John Heard is his friend, the caustic, broken Cutter. Lisa Eichhorn plays Mo, Cutter’s long-suffering lady, fending off Bone’s attentions while Cutter’s out causing trouble.


One rainy night during fiesta Bone sees, and interrupts, what turns out to be the dumping of a body, but does not realise it at the time. He tells the police what he’s witnessed when his car puts him at the scene, after a 17-year-old girl has been found in the trash, and her sister Valerie (Anne Dusenberry) has turned up seeking justice. Typically, Bone just wants to walk away, but Cutter won’t let him, especially after Bone fingers tycoon and Time magazine cover star JJ Cord as the man responsible. Cutter sees personified in Cord all the rich bastards who start the wars poor men fight, whose ‘ass is never on the line’, the kind that lost him an arm, a leg and an eye, and he seizes upon the chance to finally make one of them pay like a man possessed, and with Valerie and the reluctant Bone alongside, a plan is put into action… A plan that just a few notes of Jack Nitzsche’s plaintive, wobbling score will suggest is not going to go well…


Cutter, Bone and Mo are three people who have been together too long and know each other too well. Heard, Bridges and Eichhorn work beautifully together creating an instantly credible chemistry, a three-way relationship that’s tender and complex and disastrous, delivered through Jeffrey Allen Fiskin’s cutting dialogue, dripping with irony and bar room wit. ‘I remember food, people had to eat it during Prohibition,’ Cutter says when Mo brings home groceries instead of booze in another doomed attempt to turn their life around. Heard gets the flashy part, and the lion’s share of great lines, in a dream role, an erudite, charming and abrasive man in a wreck of a body, who still somehow, under all the crap, believes in bravery and heroism and, possibly, America. Quoting Shakespeare and Melville, self-righteously castigating the morality of those around him, but not above leching after Valerie, or using his war wounds to escape arrest after drunkenly trashing a neighbour’s car. Bridges has harder work as a man uncomfortably aware of his many moral failings, but incapable of making the tough decisions that might destroy his easy world. And Lisa Eichhorn as Mo delivers an absolute heartbreaker of a performance as a smart woman who clearly deserves better than this, but is wedded to a train wreck and just can’t go.


Passer’s film makes the personal political. What kind of world is this where the pursuit of justice is left to a sodden mess like Cutter? What kind of goddamn white knight is this? Everything is blurred, we are never sure what exactly Bone saw that night. We are not sure Cutter’s campaign is righteous, whether Cord is a monster, or that the cost will be worth it. For much of the running time we find ourselves nervously siding with Bone: isn’t it better to drop all this hero crap, pretend it’s none of our business and walk away? Cutter’s Way is not perfect: the ending feels abrupt and too blunt, Valerie’s problematic character simply disappears from the narrative before the last reel. But I don’t care. Watching it for the nth time in a screening room, I found myself laughing and crying all over again. Nittzsche’s music (a cousin to his Cuckoo’s Nest score) is wonderful, a woozy commentary on sadness. The photography is suntanned and hazy. But I mainly love the film because I know and love these people, and don’t want bad things to happen to them though I know it must.


It’s 2011 now, 30 years on. Eichhorn moved into quality TV for both the US and UK, Bridges is, in all senses, the Dude, and John Heard is probably best known as the dad in the Home Alone films. Czech émigré Passer continued his wayward career without ever producing anything quite like Cutter again. It’s a one-off, a largely overlooked shining gem. Do yourself a favour.


Mark Stafford


Ian Curtis: The Lost Lyrics…Poems By

Ian Curtis put an end to his life the night of May 18, 1980, two days before the roadshow to the United States. The lead singer of Joy Division played “The Idiot” of Iggy Pop in his pickup and hung himself in his kitchen in Macclesfield, leaving a short note: “This moment I would want to be dead, I simply cannot take it anymore”. In these few words, the enormity of a brilliant mind came to an end. It took him maybe few seconds, to tight the rope around his neck, deciding that this world is not enough for him. It took him only few seconds to decide that he would be better off someplace else, away from human cynicism.

an Curtis’ writings condemn cynicism, the lack of ethics, the autocratic greed of the Western world, and the secret nature of insight. For Curtis’ ability to integrate anything together and produce a masterpiece, his poetry seemed to fit, suggesting that art can be so simple if you really want to get to know it. For the people that couldn’t get along with the darkness of Joy Division and Ian’s obscurity, this kind of poetry was nothing more than glam-rock wasteland.

Ian Curtis knew how to write. Even more than that, he knew how to put verses together that could sound good both on paper and with music. In “New Dawn Fades” he writes “the strain’s too much, can’t take much more…. it was me, waiting for me, hoping for something more, me, seeing me this time, hoping for something else.” For anyone who deals with personal issues, this is exactly how he feels. And Ian knew that because he had his own issues too, but he also had an extraordinary ability to express his feelings artistically and reflect the pain and the strain and the emotional horror so eloquently so as to make an ordinary psychological human fear a #1 hit track on the punk charts. If this is not art, then what more can be art?


Another Uneventful Day

The ones that got away.
The pretty haired, girlie girls, ones that got away ones
Those second to none, blistfully dumb, ones that got away ones
A small bit chubby and freightfully  funny ones that got away ones
And too tragic to say, the uneventfully got away, ones that got away ones.


Concentrating on an angels nest
that had caught my eye only moments
before, barely loud enough to hear
and whispered only to me. In the
depths of reality we lose our dreams.
I lit a smoke yet couldn’t grasp
its meaning. Utter silence followed,
Disrupted only by the increasing thump
of my heartbeat. Out of the life
known to me I went along. ‘Till slowly
I regained consciousness and
the angels were gone.

Unseen Lyrics of Ian Curtis:

I walked out and thought for a time I could see no defense, and I thought for a while you were me, we were wrong, in our time, always down, out of line.

I relaxed from the days filled with bloodsport in vain, and returned with the knowledge that we’re two the same, two in Hell, two set free, too alike, you to me.

And we watched everything pass us by in due course, always tied by a mutual feeling that lost, we were two, two in hell, two set free, known too well.

In the back of my mind, all I feel is mistrust, in the back of my mind, all I see is the dirt, segregation of thoughts, ideals turning to dust.

Where some houses once stood, stands a man with a gun, in some neighbourhood, a father hangs up his son, in the back of my mind.

Don’t think I’d have stayed just for one more day, it seems so much like home, no room to go astray, don’t think I could watch – with mindless, empty tasks, intake moving in, forced to walk a lonely path.

Pictures all around, of how good a life should be, a model for the rest, that bred insecurity, I walked a jagged line and then came back for more, it’s always in my mind, an institution with no law.

I can see a thousand wills just bending in the night. And all the pretty faces painted grey to match the sky, from a distance seeing friends just washed up on the shore, a picture in my mind of what’s to come before the storm.

In time, we don’t belong in our own lifetime.

I can hear the voices lost in echoes as they build, new homes to hide the sadness that the search for more had killed, from a by road seeing friends just washed up on the shore. Picture in my mind of what’s to come before the storm.

In time, we don’t belong in our own lifetime.

I can feel an emptiness and see heads held in shame, trapped inside a legacy of everyone to blame. In the distance see myself just washed up on the shore, a picture in my mind of what will come before the storm.

In time, we don’t belong to our own lifetime.

We won’t crawl and never show our faces, we’ll stand firm and never show the traces, of the fear we knew but always could disguise, of this sinking feeling hid behind our eyes.

Nothing seems real anymore. Even the flames from the fire seem to beckon to me, drawing me into some great past life buried somewhere deep in my subconscious, if only I could find the key..if only..if only. Ever since my illness, my condition, I’ve been trying to find some logical way of passing my time, of justifying a means to an end.

He desires love, in some special way against all perversion, fed with fruits of decay. He remembers, how the guilty have seen, all the pure but selfish, buried deep in his dreams.

He sees a vision in the sky, looking down on him, calling him by name, yeah he sees faces from yesterday, of what might have been, but the past must still remain.

He desires love, not some perfect affair, in hotels of steel and glass, just to cross on the stairs, but he can still see, all the angels in time, as his dreams of ecstasy, turned to nightmares of crime.

He sees a vision in the sky, looking down at him, how the past will remain, yeah he sees a vision in the sky, staring down at him, he’ll always see the same.

Sure I’ll see you down, you do for me I did for you, cure just takes you down, we’re down for good that’s understood.

Door slides open, Johnny laughs. A view from above sticks his head out of the window and dries his eyes. I remember a winter sometime ago, angular patterns formed deep in the ground, where someone once stood. White on black, white on white. Echoed voices bouncing off the buildings around.

A ramp to the trees and trees all around, I remember a tear, frozen white on white, I remember nothing. A grey saloon, Johnny sighs, winds down the window and stares at the road.

Some things never make sense, crouches shivering in the corner, blanket ‘round your shoulder, hot then cold, cold then warm, pulse is racing, slowly racing – stopped. I remember nights listening to untill dawn, I remember nothing. Some things never make sense, a fear of stepping out,

Door slowly opens, Johnny sits on his bed, lays down and dies.

A wider alliance that leads to new roads beyond the limits, holding hands, jumping off walls into dark seclusion, cut off from the mainstream of most intimate yearnings, I left my heart somewhere on the other side, I left all desire for good.
Clinging to naked thought, impossible tactics worked out for impossible means. This is the final moment of respite. The final page in the book. A bitter challenge between old and new, with one last warning.

All lyrics (untitled) by Ian Curtis circa 1978 taken from “Touching From A Distance” by Deborah Curtis Published by Faber & Faber London 1995