Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB
USA/France/Germany/Japan/Italy/Spain, 1992. Alliance Communications Corporation, Alta, Cacous Films, Factory 25, Mikado Film, Odessa, Pandora Cinema, South, Why Not Productions. Screenplay by Sollace Mitchell, Alexandre Rockwell. Cinematography by Phil Parmet. Produced by Hank Blumenthal, Pascal Caucheteux, Jim Stark. Music by Mader. Production Design by Mark Friedberg. Costume Design by Elizabeth Bracco. Film Editing by Dana Congdon.
Alexandre Rockwell won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival for this film, and the choice really shows off the trendiness of its popularity, a series of student film cliches that slow down the progression of a threadbare plot. Steve Buscemi is fully committed as a New York City starving artist who has written a script that is rife with his philosophical ambitions for revolutionizing cinema but he can’t pay his rent. His first attempt to break into moviemaking sees him accidentally filming a sexually risqué underground art project (directed by shady artists played in cameos by Jim Jarmusch and Carol Kane), then he finally meets a producer who is interested in working with him who also turns out to be a genuine card, a shady gangster (Seymour Cassel) who keeps saying they’ll raise the money for Buscemi’s film but then constantly co-opts him into his strange variety of petty crimes.
Next door to Buscemi lives a beautiful Puerto Rican waitress (Jennifer Beals, at the time the real-life Mrs. Rockwell), with whom he is in love and hopes to cast in his dream project; despite the strength of the performer playing her, Beals’s character is just another cliché in the experience, the idealized feminine figure a la Claudia Cardinale in 8 ½, except that Fellini didn’t ever pretend his ideas in human form were anything other than this own imagined conceptions and that really does make the difference between iconic and trite.
Rockwell shot the movie on colour film and printed it in black and white stock, and the result is glinty and stark, every image is incredibly beautiful with its bursts of genuine silver and a recent restoration has only intensified its pictorial qualities. Sitting through this tired scenario, relieved by only a few moments of humour and a smattering of strong performances, is another story, limited only to its dedicated cult following and, as is often the case with this director, the pleasure of how well it captures an era of New York City art life with accuracy and elan.
Venice Film Festival: In Competition