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Michelle Anton Allen
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
An important, overlooked piece of truly independent American film-making
Symbolically this film represents the last hurrah of truly underground American film-making before it crossed over into the "indie" cottage industry we know today, as it won the grand prize at the Sundance Film Festival (then still known as the US Film Festival) a year before the levee broke, so to speak, with "Sex, Lies and Videotape". Artistically, it presents a kind of forgotten missing link between Cassavetes and Harmony Korine. The director and star Rob Nilsson (who's performance and double duty here both strike me as a bit of a precursor to Vincent Gallo as well), heavily inspired by Cassavetes, created his own filmic method he calls "direct action cinema" which basically just means complete spontaneous improvisation from the mostly non-professional actors, mostly hand-held camera and minimal lights etc. Nothing too revolutionary by today's standards, but considering this was 1987 not many people were doing this, let alone in America. He also injects a very innovative editing style strikingly reminiscent of what Harmony Korine would do some ten years later, particularly similar to "Julien Donkey-Boy" with it's ultra-grainy visual quality (Black and white 16mm? Analogue video?) and extensive use of still-frame snapshot images. Despite all this remarkable innovation, the film is not without it's flaws and is in some ways actually very dated. A few unfortunate sequences have a glaringly cheesy "80s"ness to them (leg warmers?), and also the overall production quality, while admirable in it's embodiment of true independent spirit, is also a bit rough to say the least. Still, the actual storyline itself is really very good and the acting, for the most part, is engaging (although I may have considered someone else for the lead role besides Nilsson himself, a choice which strikes of a certain egoism). As a kind of forgotten building block in the independent filmic language it is well worth seeing (and I'm pretty sure Harmony Korine must have seen this since it contains the idea of "jokes without punchlines" in a very amusing sequence).
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