There is something fantastically seventies about title sequences that have copyright notices in them. A lot of low budget indies, just about the time when non-studio films started to happen, had copyright notices on them (Sweet Sweetback being a good example, as is Texas Chainsaw Massacre). These days it is rarely seen, the copyright is a given, and anyway our credits are full of the fifteen different company and producer names who brought us the film. Which is why David Gordon Green’s copyright notice on the title page of Undertow is there purely as a hint to those sort of seventies films. Unsurprising as the entire film seems stuck together from homages of other films. Plenty of people have notice the Night Of The Hunter as a influence, but the film feels almost Cormanesque, or at least its early scenes have the energy of something knocked out quickly (the backwater feel of Boxcar Bertha springs to mind).

Whilst I enjoyed Undertow it seemed a slightly retrograde step for Green, whose previous films (All The Pretty Girls and George Washington) coasted along on a tremendously firm style. Yet Undertow has a much stronger narrative, and until the last twenty minutes, manages to suck you in whilst still playing to Gordon’s strengths as a director (playing on the edge of reality). Perhaps it is a case of too much too soon, the Terrance Malick production may have given us the Badlands feel, and the Phillip Glass score possible overshadows the work Green is doing himself. Or perhaps he just needs to make a Swamp Thing movie. That’s what the hip young directors are doing these days after all, and Green’s affiliation of backwaters and wastelands would fit that nicely.

In the end perhaps the failing of Undertow is that its a film which is impossible to talk about without refering to other films. What price copyright then?