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A big city cop from LA moves to a small town police force and immediately finds himself investigating a murder. Using theories rejected by his colleagues, the cop, John Berlin, meets a young blind woman named Helena, who he is attracted to. Meanwhile, a serial killer is on the loose and only John knows it. Written by
Director Bruce Robinson wanted composer Christopher Young to write the score for the film and the studio rejected him because of his lack of credits at that point. The studio then hired Maurice Jarre to write the music for the film who was their "lucky charm" after the success of films such as Ghost, Almost an Angel and School Ties and did not get along with Robinson, who felt that Jarre's music for the film did not fit what he was aiming for with the story. Young would be hired and after the first recording session, the studio backed off and agreed to the choice. See more »
When Berlin is searching through Taylor's filing cabinet, his hands jump in position while flipping through the folders just before he finds the folder marked "Jennifer". See more »
It's a long and complex movie. Complex not because there are too many subplots. (There are only two interwoven plots: the solution of the mystery and the mating of Andy Garcia and Uma Thurman.) It's just that we follow events in considerable detail. That's okay, in itself, but the climax itself -- the revelation and killing of a serial murderer -- isn't well adumbrated. The climax pivots on the finding of an antihistamine capsule and everything falls together in the last fifteen minutes without any previous hints.
The director follows most of the rules. Nothing fancy. He does give us two outstanding scenes. In the first, Uma Thurman, who has been blind since childhood and sequestered in a bleak institution is taken to a Christmas party by Garcia, the detective investigating serial murders, in one of which cases she is a witness. A friend dresses her up and covers her with makeup for her debut. (I liked her better as a lean lanky-looking Bohemian with a cello. Dressed up she looks a little whorish.) The party begins well. But later she finds herself standing alone in the middle of a dozen drunken guests who bump into her from unexpected directions. The record player is blaring "Louie Louie," and everyone ignores her. Her anxiety is manifest as she is slowly encircled by the camera, and we are as confused and frightened as she is. Thurman and the director do a polished job here.
Another memorable scene is the interrogation of Garcia by John Malkovich. Malkovich hams it up as usual. He seems to be constantly sniffing and speaks as if he had a cold. "You got mbarried but byew had a bad mbarriage, didn't byew?" But that's okay too. It must have been a hard scene to shoot. It's full of tight close ups of the two faces, sometimes only inches apart. Sometimes Malkovich even whispers into Garcia's ear. Garcia is tense, grief stricken, and angry. Malkovich is sly and insinuating. There is no music in the scene. Aside from the dialogue everything is perfectly quiet, except for the squeaking of wheeled office chairs or the harsh breathing of the actors. One wrong move, one errant jactitation, one delinquent vocal chord, and everything goes back to Square One. Whatever troubles the scene might have given the film makers, what we see on screen is about as good as it gets. Two real professionals at work in front of a camera.
I'll make the rest of the points kind of quickly. Conrad Hall is a great cinematographer, and he gets some of the scenic locations down neatly. But -- man, is this gloomy. Okay, we don't expect it to be otherwise when it's a howling blizzard and three in the morning. But the interiors are almost as dark. (Enough with the symbolism!) Why is a police laboratory so dark we can hardly make out the faces? There is no contrast between interiors and exteriors. Somebody turn on the lights!
The director should get no more than a gentleman's C for the introduction of the institute's janitor. An elevator door opens. We see a man's back. The man turns around. Jump to a close up of his bald head and gargoyle face with glasses like coke-bottle bottoms. It would have been fine in a movie with a title like "I Dismember Mamma." There us some gratuitous nudity too. I found it objectionable for two reasons. One is that there wasn't enough of it. Second is that a body double is used. Much better to have had a long long scene of gratuitous nudity using the lissome blond herself.
Maurice Jarre evidently had his score thrown out. The replacement is pretty good. This murky and rather solemn film is unimaginable with a loud action-y score full of electronic percussion and unceasing in its torture. It's nice that Thurman plays a music teacher at the institute but I kind of wish the instrument we had seen her with had been something other than a cello. It must be played in an undignified position and is the second most preposterous instrument in an orchestra, the first being the Glockenspiel.
Oh -- and by the way, Garcia tracks the murderer down by following a trail of clues to a house many hours' drive away, in Oakland. While he's riffing through the drawers, he's caught by the murderer and framed. How did the murderer know that Garcia would be there?
Eureka's not a bad little town, although it's rainy all winter and foggy all summer. It keeps the riff-raff out. My ship used to dock at Field's Landing. I wonder if the Ranchotel is still open? Very friendly patrons.
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