H2N Review: The Hippopotamus

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The opening of John Jenck’s The Hippopotamus is a flawless, wordless introduction to the film’s protagonist, Ted Wallace. It starts with a close-up of a book baring a snippet of the identically titled poem by T.S. Eliot: “The broad-backed hippopotamus rests on his belly in the mud; although he seems firm to us, he is merely flesh and blood”. While the original poem is a metaphorical takedown of the Catholic Church, Ted Wallace, a lapsed poet and current theater critic, is a man who is skirting the edge of oblivion with his lifestyle.

The camera pulls out from the poem to reveal an unmade bed covered in books, an overturned lamp, and a full ashtray. A hand tosses a porn magazine atop the pile of intellectual vice. The camera cuts to a nearly empty whiskey bottle set on a brimming bookshelf. The hand snatches away the whiskey bottle, revealing a photograph of Wallace with his son and a postage stamp over the face of one who can only be his ex-wife. He pours the whiskey into a glass. He unbuttons his shirt, exposing a large, round belly. The camera cuts to a wide shot, as Wallace lowers himself into a claw foot bathtub of steaming water. He immerses himself, comes back up spouting water, and then brings the whiskey glass to his lips as the title appears. We already know so much about this man without the utterance of a single line of dialog. Once Wallace starts speaking, however, he never stops…

Read the rest of the review at Hammer to Nail!

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