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John Paul Bodner
There's a murky tenuous balance between reality and fiction; particularly when it involves a beautiful young woman, murder, a powerful politico, a missing fortune and suicide. A passionate filmmaker creating a film based upon a true crime casts an unknown mysterious young woman bearing a disturbing resemblance to the femme fatale in the story. Unsuspectingly, he finds himself drawn into a complex web of haunting intrigue, obsessed with the woman, the crime, her possibly notorious past and the disturbing complexity between art and truth. From the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina to Verona, Rome and London, new truths are revealed and clues to other crimes and passions, darker and even more complex are uncovered. Written by
While it would be nice to report that after a 20 year absence cult director Monte Hellman has returned with some sort of existential masterpiece on the nature of movie-making, complete with tragic death and lost innocence as some of its themes, this torpid, nearly incomprehensible muddle of a story about a young director making a low-budget film merely leaves one confused and numb.
What might have been a worthy companion piece to Lynch's "Mulholland Drive," Dennis Hopper's "The Last Movie" or even the great Billy Wilder's "Sunset Blvd." crawls so far up its own convoluted pseudo-intellectual ass that making it through to the final credits becomes an endurance test.
Hellman commented recently that directing is 90 or 95% casting. He might want to focus a little more on the directing next time, and find a script that has a compelling story and characters one can actually care about. But this has never been his forte, of course.
A good deal of the blame goes to the editor, who allows scenes to meander a half a minute or more after they've effectively ended. The version I saw resembled a rough cut, not a finished film, complete with such snore-inducing moments as the main actress staring at a blow dryer for what seemed an eternity.
If Hellman's goal was to make a "personal" film that he alone can connect to and appreciate, then perhaps he has succeeded. But wouldn't it have been wonderful if this revered auteur could have -- for once -- created something that others could appreciate, too, perhaps even understand and enjoy... a picture with interesting characters and a story worth telling... something that might have been considered releasable by a small but respected distributor.... possibly returning Hellman to the filmmaking world of the 21st century as a viable director.
Alas, this mood experiment with digital photography, bland 1-dimensional characters, a 1970s Leonard Cohen inspired soundtrack and a cryptic, fragmented storyline may appeal to his very close inner circle of fans, but will likely leave the rest of us out in the cold, bewildered, confused, and wondering what all the accolades could have been about back in the 60s and 70s.
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