Daily Archives: August 24, 1990

Stalker

Andrei Tarkovsky’s masterpiece, which, like his earlier Solaris, is a very free and allegorical adaptation of an SF novel (Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic). After a strange meteorite hits the earth, the region where it fell is sealed off; known as the Zone, it is believed to have magical powers that can grant the most secret wishes of those who enter it, but it can be penetrated only illegally and with special guides. One such guide (Alexander Kaidanovsky), the stalker of the title, leads a writer and a professor (Nikolai Grinko and Anatoli Solonitsin) through the grimiest litter of industrial waste that you’ve ever seen to reach the Zone’s epiphany. What they find is pretty harsh and it has none of the usual satisfactions of SF quests. But Tarkovsky, who regards their journey as a contemporary spiritual quest, does such remarkable things with his mise en scene–particularly very slow and elaborately choreographed camera movements–that you may be mesmerized nonetheless. The film’s final scene is absolutely breathtaking. Not an easy film (and it runs 161 minutes), but almost certainly a great one. With Alice Friendlich (1979). (Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Monday through Thursday, August 27 through 30, 7:30, 281-4114)… Read more »

Bad Ideas [on WILD AT HEART]

From the August 24, 1990 issue of the Chicago Reader. This is another film (see capsule review of Rita, Sue and Bob Too, posted earlier today) recently released on Blu-Ray by Twilight Time. For the record, I much prefer most or all of the features David Lynch has made since Wild at Heart, especially Inland Empire. — J.R.

WILD AT HEART

* (Has redeeming facet)

Directed and written by David Lynch

With Nicolas Cage, Laura Dern, Diane Ladd, Willem Dafoe, Isabella Rossellini, Harry Dean Stanton, and Crispin Glover.

The progressive coarsening of David Lynch’s talent over the 13 years since Eraserhead, combined with his equally steady rise in popularity, says a lot about the relationship of certain artists with their audiences. A painter-turned-filmmaker, Lynch started out with a highly developed sense of mood, texture, rhythm, and composition; a dark and rather private sense of humor; and a curious combination of awe, fear, fascination, and disgust in relation to sex, violence, industrial decay, and urban entrapment. He also appeared to have practically no storytelling ability at all, and in the case of Eraserhead, this deficiency was actually more of a boon than a handicap. Like certain experimental films, the movie simply took you somewhere and invited you to discover it for yourself.… Read more »

After Dark, My Sweet

Although there are times when one feels that the filmmakers have bitten off a little more than they can chew, this is a bold, watchable adaptation (by director James Foley and coproducer Robert Redlin) of a noirish thriller by Jim Thompson that comes surprisingly close to capturing the grisly, hard-boiled, and unstable world of that author–thanks in part to a sharp feeling for sensual detail that includes everything from wet, squishy kisses to a scummy unused swimming pool. (Cinematographer Mark Plummer works wonders with light and scenery in striking ‘Scope compositions.) Jason Patric, calling to mind a slightly heavier James Dean at a low flame, stars as a former boxer who has escaped from an insane asylum; whether he’s actually nuts or merely on the edge is one of the central ambiguities that keep the plot moving, and the fact that he narrates the story off-screen in classic noir fashion only complicates one’s uncertainty. He falls in with a salty, alcoholic English widow (Rachel Ward) and a small-time con man and ex-cop (Bruce Dern) in southern California who are plotting to kidnap a little boy from a wealthy family, and paranoia and other complications start to unravel the trio’s uneasy rapport.… Read more »