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Blake Pellarin is on the campaign trail to become governor of the state of Missouri. While making a stop in St. Louis, a chance encounter brings his past back to haunt him. Will the truth ruin his chances for office or will he land the "Big Brass Ring"? Written by
This may be a flawed masterpiece or perhaps a mediocre movie with a lot to recommend it. I enjoyed it and would like to see it again, partly to make sure the plot worked and partly to catch some nuances that I missed. And also because, as my esteemed colleague, flickjunkie, notes below, the audio is atrocious and my ears are not as sharp as they once were. But life is short and the entire opus of film is long...but maybe I can edit with the fast forward!
Okay, let's look at the evidence. Script by Orson Welles: somewhat amazing since he died in 1985. His last work. That alone may make this worth watching. William Hurt plays a southern pol, Blake Pellarin, running for governor of Missouri. Miranda Richardson plays his rich, alcoholic wife, and she is very good. Nigel Hawthorne is Kim Mennaker, Blake's one time mentor, a shadowy, behind the scenes political figure, a cynical character who is writing a 27,000-page memoir, which no doubt includes much about his love for the Pellarin boys. Irène Jacob plays Cela Brandini, a TV reporter fascinated with Blake. The one-time protégé of French-Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski is not shown to advantage here. I'm not sure why, but there is little subtlety in the way she plays the part. To really appreciate what she can do, see her in La Double vie de Véronique (1991) or Trois Couleurs: Rouge (1994), both directed by Kieslowski. She is very beautiful and very winning.
William Hurt, contrary to some opinion, was excellent. His characteristic laid-back, almost languid style works strangely well for a southern pol. He is certainly different, but believable, although I don't think his style would have worked had his character been running for president, as in Welles's original script. (Incidentally, they really wanted Louisiana, not Missouri, for the locale.) Hurt's performance reminds me in some ways of his work in the outstanding but now somewhat neglected, Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), for which he won an academy award.
The Big Brass Ring never had a theatrical release, and it is not hard to see why. The print is too dark and the story too murky and hard to follow. It appears that the brothers changed identities when young and never bothered to change back. Apparently Blake's brother and not Blake was the subject of the homosexual photo, but I'm not sure. To make this movie work for a mass audience, the true status of the boys then, and during the time of the action, must be made clear.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
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