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Over 16 hours, in February, 1987, a man confronts jealously and rage as a love affair falters. Photojournalist Mel Hurley returns home to San Francisco on the eve of his birthday, expecting his lover, Carmen, to meet him at the airport and tell him if she will be exclusively his. She's not there, she wants more time. Almost 20 years ago, he'd photographed civil war in Biafra, wanting to tell a story that would save people. He now equates that war with his personal struggle: can his photographs save this relationship? He goes to Carmen to talk to her; first he acts the fool, then they seem to connect. But, can he control his jealousy and not force things with her? Written by
Certainly Worthy Of Viewer Attention, But Drenched With Director's Self-Absorption.
If writer/director Rob Nilsson were able to suppress his somewhat tedious sense of self, this film would probably have lacked that intense personal edge that gained for him the Grand Prize at the Sundance Festival but it also may have become more palatable fare for those fortunate souls to whom his personal devils hold minimal charm. Action begins with photographer Mel Hurley (Nilsson) and his close friend Mitch deplaning in San Francisco after a brief picture taking junket, Mel being eager to rejoin his former lover Carmen (Consuelo Faust), due to her personal involvement with him being in a state of uncertainty following his decision that they should see less of each other, a choice that he now rues making because he has learned that absence from her is something less than tolerable. In what is apparently a semi-autobiographical storyline, Carmen, a professional dancer, has taken up with her performing partner Adam, and after Mel confronts her with a demand that she decide between the two men, his emotional pain-preoccupation is plainly less appealing to her than is the younger and less complicated Adam. We are told that the film is only patchily scripted and that the cast improvises for all scenes during a 16 hour plot span as Mel's distressed and erratic behaviour, representative of a jilted lover, is saturated with essence of self-pity, while Mitch and another friend try but fail at lifting his spirits. An attempt is made to indicate that Mel is bearing emotional scars from a photographic essay that he made in Biafra and many stills, in addition to some moving footage, is seen during that war-ravaged republic's brief existence; however, Hurley's visceral and often overwrought actions are generally related to his failed relationship with Carmen and stills of her, credited to Steve and Hildy Burns, are happily prevalent, and quite inventive as well. "You know how I love your passion" avers Carmen to an importunate Mel, but her overall disinterest toward him tells us another tale in this highly energetic and episodic film within which a lack of structural coherence obviously suits any artistic goal that Nilsson might wish to have achieved. An admirer of John Cassavetes and his cinematic methods, Nilsson has borrowed from that auteur's style book during the creation of this free style affair that is essentially a study of sexual jealousy, with possibly the most meritable element of the film contributed by the music of David Byrne and Brian Eno that strongly shadows Hurley's torment. Interestingly produced and not without aesthetic value, this piece, shot in black and white, brings with it a conundrum respecting the significance of naturalism and realism in cinema; if a viewer's life experience is such that concerns for a narrative's characters want for a frame of reference, will not an audience reaction be one composed in the main of mere emotive voyeurism?
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