Sinister Cinema: Q&A

For the Alamo Drafthouse special screening of The Woman Chaser on December 7, they followed the film with a Q&A featuring — left to right, above — me, Joe McSpadden, Patrick Warburton (panelists) and Jake Isgar (moderator).

Don’t think I’d seen the movie since it screened at Pacific Film Archive in 2009, at which time I called it a “near-perfect capture of the Willeford novel.” Reinforced by watching the movie last week, my opinion remains unchanged — or as I told the audience, I think Woman Chaser is by far the closest Willeford film to the source material to date.

Obviously Cockfighter from 1974, starring Warren Oates — and with Charles Willeford himself in the cast — would be hard to beat on many levels, but the trick is that Willeford wrote that one more or less as a straight Southern novel. I think it was his personal favorite of all his books. But it just isn’t as Willefordian as most of the others.

Miami Blues from 1990 is good, if nowhere near as good as the novel, but they tweaked various angles just enough to hamper some of the hallmark Willeford touches. (The Crisco sequence just isn’t full-tilt Willeford, for one example.)

Woman Chaser, though, I’m sitting there thinking, Yeah, that’s exactly from the book. Exactly.

And among all the questions from the audience, one woman asked if we thought this movie could be made today — or, another way to interpret the query, could any close adaptation of Willeford be filmed today?

Joe and Patrick seemed inclined to say No, and I can’t disagree. Willeford is a genuine subversive, and if you think about it, it’s kind of amazing his novels got published at all, much less that someone could make them into movies.

You’d have to pull them away from the source material, as they did with the most recent adaptation, 2019’s The Burnt Orange Heresy. I haven’t bothered to see that one yet, once I learned that they moved the action from Florida to Italy and sort of turned it into a thriller.

Could be good for what it is, sure, but it seems to be a movie with a Charles Willeford title, not a Willeford movie.

And another angle to the woman’s question, I suppose — Should they have even made Woman Chaser twenty years ago?

Maybe even, couldn’t someone have stopped them. . . .

Another standout question was a guy asking Patrick if he felt “objectified” by the way he was used in the movie — shirtless, doing the ballet dance with his film mother, that kind of thing? Exactly from the novel.

He didn’t seem to be scarred for life over it.

Lots of other queries. They shot many scenes on the fly, not getting location permits, guerilla-style. Most of the actors weren’t actors.

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