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Howard Spence (Sam Shepard) has seen better days. Once a big Western movie star, he now drowns his disgust for his selfish and failed life with alcohol, drugs and young women. If he were to die now, nobody would shed a tear over him, that's the sad truth. Until one day Howard learns that he might have a child somewhere out there. The very idea seems like a ray of hope that his life wasn't all in vain. So he sets out to find that young man or woman. He discovers an entire life that he has missed ... Written by
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Where is Howard? Who is Howard? We wanna know, we wanna know. Where is Howard? Who is Howard? Where did he go, where did he go? He's down in the ditches. He's down in the ground. Disappeared himself. He's no-where to be found! Where is Howard? Who is Howard? He's long gone, he's long gone.
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Greetings again from the darkness. Terribly underrated as a director, Wim Wenders has more than a couple of gems on his resume. Most notable are "Wings of Desire" and "Paris, Texas". Without question, "Don't Come Knocking" immediately jumps into the same class as those two extraordinary films. Collaborating with the insanely talented writer Sam Shepard for the first time since "Paris, Texas", Wenders offers up a character study that many of us have more in common with than we might first imagine.
With a rare appearance in a film he has written, Mr. Shepard plays Howard Spence, a washed up western film star who hits the road in search of the life he somehow missed. Admittedly, when the film opens with Howard galloping off into the desert away from the film set, my stomach began to churn as I had flashbacks to "Electric Horseman". Not long afterward, I became mesmerized by the pain of this man seeking redemption and meaning. Sure, there will be comparisons to "Broken Flowers" and many other meaning of life films, but writer Shepard never once pretends to be writing the great American self realization story. This is a VERY simple story about a handful of VERY interesting characters.
Jessica Lange (Shepard's real life honey) plays his long ago, nearly forgotten love who has never wandered from her small town Montana roots. What Shepard learns, after visiting with his mother (Eva Marie Saint) for the first time in 30 years, is that Lange has raised Shepard's son (Gabriel Mann). The focus drastically shifts for Shepard as he tries to make sense of it all. Just to add to his misery, Shepard is stalked by Sarah Polley (carrying her mom's remains in an urn), who suspects she is his daughter.
The genius of the film lies in the characters and setting. We never feel we are observing. Instead, we are part of the story. Winders camera angles really capture the thought cycles of Shepard in the motel room, at the bar and on the sofa in the road. Watching this would-be dad and these might-be kids come to terms with all of this is on one hand, slyly funny, but mostly intensely painful and intimate.
Spectacular performances by Shepard, Lange, and Eva Marie Saint, as well as strong support from Tim Roth, Polley, Mann and even the great George Kennedy make the story unfold in our reality. Wenders terrific camera work and small town setting with stunning panoramic views keep us comfortable, yet very aware. The pulsing guitar of the seemingly everywhere T Bone Burnett drives our pulse up or down depending on the scene.
This is marvelous film-making and pure joy for film lovers. At the post screening Q&A, Mr. Wenders expressed his enthusiasm for working with Mr. Shepard and creating a masterpiece out of a seemingly little story. We as movie goers are the lucky ones.
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