Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Eureka (1983, Nicolas Roeg)

The party line seems to be that Roeg tailed off once the eighties hit, which probably explains why despite my love for his 70s work, I'm only now getting to the stuff that followed. The film never quite lives up to the operating opening section, complete with a river of gold that erupts from the ground to the strains of Wagner's Overture to Das Rheingold. As with THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, Roeg's previous collaboration with screenwriter Paul Mayersburg, EUREKA is the story of a man who gained the whole world only to lose his soul. But while its predecessor was distinguished by its innovative style and unexpected characters, this film treads a more worn narrative path. As such, it lacks Roeg's usual mastery of tone, and consequently only really comes alive during the scenes of heightened emotion. Thankfully, the film's three principals- Gene Hackman, Theresa Russell, and Rutger Hauer- are up to the task. Hauer in particular is a marvel, especially during the scene where he destroys a party after learning his mother has died. His talent and magnetism serves as a reminder of what a magical actor he can be, despite being mired in dreck most of his career (come to think, you could say much the same of Russell). The film becomes a kind of magnificent folly in the final act, following an brutal, protracted murder scene. By the time Russell takes the witness stand to be interrogated by Hauer (playing her husband!) about his own possible involvement in the killing for almost ten minutes, a kind of Rubicon has been passed- either you give up and laugh or give in and hold on. It's implausible, absurd and kind of stupid, but it's anything but lazy, and it's impossible to watch it without reacting. It's entirely possible that EUREKA is a bad movie, but if it is it's my kind of bad movie, the kind that can only be made by a great filmmaker so sure of himself that he's willing to go for broke. Whether that means I'm over- or under-rating the film, I'm not sure. Plus it's got naked Theresa Russell in her prime, which is always welcome. Rating: **1/2.

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