Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1982. Embassy International Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox. Screenplay by Paul D. Zimmerman. Cinematography by Fred Schuler. Produced by Arnon Milchan. Music by Robbie Robertson. Production Design by Boris Leven. Costume Design by Richard Bruno. Film Editing by Thelma Schoonmaker. Cannes Film Festival 1983.
A wonderful change of pace for director Martin Scorsese, following his success with Raging Bull with this truly creepy comedy. Robert De Niro is superb as a man obsessed with becoming a celebrity, so much so that he keeps a fake late-night show set in his basement that he decorates with cardboard cutouts of the celebrities he “interviews”. His dream is to become noticed by his favourite talk show host (Jerry Lewis) and join his world, but when his long-anticipated meeting with the star happens, nothing goes De Niro’s way. Not willing to accept failure, he teams up with his nutty friend (Sandra Bernhard, in a whirlwind comedy performance that unfortunately never led to a better film career) to kidnap Lewis and take him hostage. Watching a comedy in which Lewis is the straight man is strange enough, but this film has plenty of delights and surprises, incredibly funny but also searing in its look at the dark side of American celebrity obsession. The performances are all superb.