As for Bellocq himself not much is known except that he was slightly deformed and not interested in the ladies at all sexually-- the marriage to Violet merely a modern plot device--but he professed his deep fascination and reverence for them, thankfully, in other ways: his portraits. Without them, a poignant record of their lives,and that of The District, would be lost forever. All in all, the film is a wonderful paean to Bellocq, and the women he loved in his own way. I would urge all critics of this movie to seek out a copy of "Storyville, New Orleans" by Al Rose, or MOMA's "E.J. Bellocq: Storyville Portraits." They will really open yours eyes to what Louis Malle has recreated.
This was a purely pointless exercise in film making with so many holes in the plot that it defied credibility which led to me fidgeting and squirming in my seat for the full running time (spoilers ahead):
A. For a rural preacher-cum-farmer, Mel Gibson wears entirely too many brand new freshly bought clothes, has a nice supply of makeup personnel around to keep his hair obviously over-dyed at all times, and always seems to be distinctly UN-weatherbeaten for a man of the soil. Being freshly shaved throughout the movie seems to take away any realism from the goings-on which would lead most folks appear quite ragged after a few days of what his character was supposed to be experiencing. Perhaps his character was written to be the Martha Stewart of farming. Horribly miscast for box office value, GQ Farmer Mel sleepwalks through his role, making one wish for a rough hewn leading man-a guy with dirt under his fingernails (Harrison Ford, perhaps) that could at least make the character credible-in spite of the comic book dialogue.
B. Gibson is a fella who vows not to bring TV into his world while sitting on the biggest story in U.S. history. The entire world is focused on the aliens in the Mideast and India and wrings its CNN-hands while back in the states, 45 miles from Philly, the world knows nothing. Mel does. He's cut off a creature's fingers while the alien is trapped behind a farmhouse door. Does anyone in his household care while he casually relates this incident and forgets about it? Heck no. They just go on watching TV and cracking insipid jokes. I believe both his inquisitive children and brother would want to know more and sneak-off and pay a return visit to the creature to take a curious peek at it...and maybe take matters into their own hands.
C. Mel and his kin seem to live in a vacuum. The rural police just disappear after the first reel and never again go looking for Mel and family, even when the news goes worldwide and the end of the Earth seems very near. Unusual, 'cause in small towns like this the authorities are, well, neighborly and would be concerned at least, if not for Mel and his brother, for the children. Phones never ring. Surely the police know the end of Pennsylvania is at hand and something must be done to save the town's Favorite Son And Family.
D. Sophisticated aliens from another galaxy seem to travel through space sans clothing. Wonder if they walk around stark naked on their own planet where variations in temperature are not a problem. ? Or maybe this advanced race has "evolved" past the hangups found here on Earth.
Oh yes. They melt (in an obvious paean to the "Wicked Witch's" death in "the Wizard of Oz") when water is poured upon them. The aliens didn't seem to undertake a thorough scouting report on the planet they insisted upon occupying (lotsa water here on Earth...or maybe they (gasp!) didn't know about water!). Please. I spent six bucks for this?
E. The aliens are easily routed and defeated by forces here on Earth with a glossed-over explanation that a mysterious and unexplained experimental strategy was undertaken by a group of parched middle easterners-which drove the creatures from our planet! Were they sprayed with water-laden crop dusters?
F. M. Night Shyamalan's awkward and self-serving cameo goes on for far too long. Sure, his character COULD turn-up in rural Pennsylvania. So could lovable CrocMeister Steve Irwin, but both folks would be highly improbable occupying farmhouses in lovely Buck's County.
I just can't go on. 1 out of 10 for this overlong piece of Celluloid Sominex.
If you want to witness highly entertaining (and far more believable) shtick of this genre, pick up a DVD of George Pal's "War Of The Worlds". Or "The Day The Earth Stood Still." Or the original "Invasion Of The Body Snatchers."
No need to hurry, though.
Those films will be around a heck of a lot longer than "Signs".