Emerald Cities (1983) Poster

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4/10
Unlike anything else!
MOscarbradley23 August 2019
Impossible to pin down, Rick Schmidt's cold-war, punk movie "Emerald Cities" is shoe-string movie making at its stringiest and totally unlike anything else. It's also been 'lost' for years but thanks to Nicolas Winding Refn has only recently been rediscovered and given a brand new lick of paint. It isn't quite a documentary nor is it totally plotless but with its use of non-professional actors and in the improvisatory way Schmidt films it, it feels as it's just been thrown together.

What plot there is involves Ed Nylund's Santa Claus impersonator heading to San Francisco in search of his daughter. Meantime, we are warned about the dangers of nuclear weapons and lectured on the possibility that Santa might indeed be real, all to a largely incomprehensible punk soundtrack. How you relate to it, of course, depends on how you relate to cinema in general and what you think cinema is. This is guerrilla movie-making, one man's demented vision of America in the Eighties and is, apparently, the last part of a trilogy. I'm not quite sure I have recovered from it yet.
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6/10
messy fun
jonathan-5778 December 2007
For a good chunk of its running time, this movie gives proof to Schmidt's low-low-budget advocacy work (he is the author of "Feature Film-making at Used Car Prices" after all, which was a huge boost to my own aspirations). Grainy and grimy and gimmicky and goofy, cut with an incoherence that adds momentum until it finally starts to detract, it's built around such simple elements as a couple funny pals or a weird face mask or a Flipper song or an interview about Santa Claus or Ronald Reagan on TV. But it does have a structure, one that could even be described as narrative if you look at it from the right angle. The sheer goofiness of the whole enterprise plays off the pretentious undertow, kind of a Kenneth Anger meets X thing. It can't keep its plates spinning right to the end, I think the defection of the lead actress halfway through the shoot was a major problem even though the way Schmidt papers this over is pretty endearing. But it's fun and it captures its time and place in a way that I haven't seen before.
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