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Lisa Ann Orkin,
Have you heard of WALLS IN THE CITY? And did you ever think it was linked to Bukowski? Probably not, but the middle of the three stories that make up WALLS IN THE CITY is adapted from a Bukowski short story called REUNION. The other two are Bukowski-like stuff scripted by Sikora and, surprisingly, one of them is very good.
The good 'un is FLY ON THE WALL, featuring David Yow. Yow is the brilliant almost-midget singer from THE Jesus LIZARD, and he does a great job playing a "happy insomniac" hanging out in a bar. He ends up going home with a gal but, in between bouts of falling asleep, she has sex with another guy instead. Yow's character is largely undisturbed, blandly watching TV. WALLS IN THE CITY tries to focus on the low-life, and it's captured best here because the mood is so laid back. It's a fun tale. REUNION is the next story, only it's been renamed LOVE, AFTER THE WALLS CLOSE IN and it's been rejigged a little. It's about Harry, a guy recently released from prison, hooking up with his ex Madge. It's OK, but not great. It's a violent story but it doesn't shock or engage enough. As throughout WALLS IN THE CITY, the problems lay in the lazy Super-8 cinematography and the performance of Paula Killen (who features in all three tales). I'm always wary when people call something intentionally "rough" or "naive"... an artist should still be adept at telling a story visually.
Cinema Verite can work, but there's a fine line between that and a student video. The Super 8 gives the whole thing an overuse of grain, and Sikora revels in not using a tripod. But at least use more angles for ****'s sake... at least try and enhance the stories a little visually. Equally, Killen seems nabbed from a student film. But, as with any film that uses overlong shots, it seems harsh to attack her. The fact she has to emote so much is mostly due to the direction.
The third story ONE TIME SHE PLAYED THE B-SIDE is about a businesswoman (Killen) meeting a lowlife in a bar. Bill Cusack (as good as Yow, but in a showier role) falls into a reverie of the relationship going out of kilter, and them fighting over money. It's neat enough, with a nice ending, but it's the least interesting because of the coldness of Killen's character.
WALLS IN THE CITY has a limited release on Region 1 DVD, but it's not worth shelling out the $30 for. I picked it up on video, and it's worth firing up the old VHS machine and spending your 6 quid or 9 dollars to check out a little oddity. WALLS IN THE CITY is nowhere near the worst way to spend an hour of your life. But there remains the nagging feeling that if you had a couple of friends who could act, you could do equally as well.
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