Scarecrow won a shared Golden Palm Award at Cannes (1973). Directed by Jerry Schatzberg and lusciously captured by Vilmos Zsigmond, it’s a drifter film that has its moments, if only because Gene Hackman and Al Pacino were at the top of their games back in this period. Hackman (Max) is just getting out of San Quentin after six years and Pacino (Lion) is hitting shore after the same amount of time at sea and avoiding life. They meet on the road hitching in an extended scene where each of their personalities is in evidence. Max is taciturn, lacking trust in the human race. Lion (Max’s pet name for Pacino’s character) is nearly his opposite. A natural pair, then. They establish a relationship and hit the road. Or more accurately, they hit the road together and their relationship cements itself.
The plot quest (such as it is) has them traveling to Pittsburgh to open a car wash with some dough that Max has saved up. Detours are scheduled for Denver (Max’s sister lives there) and Detroit (Lion to see his 6-year old son for the first time.) In between they raise a little hell and spend anther 30-days in the slammer. When they get to Detroit, Lion is horribly deceived by his (who can blame her?) former girlfriend Annie. Things do not go well for Lion after that. Guilt doesn’t wear on him well.
The script is uneven, which is covered up nearly completely by the three stars: Hackman, Pacino, and the scenery. This is a film that ends nicely, although the melodramatic climax just before that, makes it feel added on. Too bad.