Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA, 1998. Capitol Films, Redeemable Features. Screenplay by Paul Auster. Cinematography by Alik Sakharov. Produced by Greg Johnson, Amy J. Kaufman, Peter Newman. Music by John Lurie, Graeme Revell. Production Design by Kalina Ivanov. Costume Design by Adelle Lutz. Film Editing by Tim Squyres.
This romantic drama with touches of science-fiction has moments of pure loveliness but doesn’t maintain its intensity throughout. Harvey Keitel plays a jazz musician whose career is taken away from him after he is shot by a deranged gunman during a performance. Months after recovering and left with a broken hand and only one lung, he trips over a corpse in a back alleyway and discovers a strange stone and a phone number in the dead man’s bag. Taking it home, he learns that the stone has strange powers that connect him to an aspiring actress (a wonderfully delicate Mira Sorvino) whose voice is at the other end of the telephone number. The two find an instant connection of intimacy that threatens to break when some strange agents come after the stone. The very strangeness of the story is one of the film’s most attractive qualities, but director Paul Auster leaves his audience in the dark too often and much of the film is spent on long, talky scenes that don’t really go anywhere. Willem Dafoe appears in a supporting role originally intended for Salman Rushdie, whose security requirements (because of Khomeini’s fatwah) would have been too great for the independent production. Vanessa Redgrave and Gina Gershon are wonderful in brief appearances.