Thursday, February 1, 2007

Bloody Well Took Them Long Enough - Donald Cammell at Lincoln Center

In addition to NYC's Morricone madness, this weekend will also see the Film Society of Lincoln Center's launching of a long-overdue retrospective of Donald Cammell, one of the great unsung directors of the last 40 years. Best known as co-director (with Nicholas Roeg) of PERFORMANCE, Cammell had one of those unfortunately tumultuous relationships with Hollywood, which led to a reduced output and a few projects that proved unsatisfying experiences. The last of those experiences, 1996's WILD SIDE, ended up being too much for Cammell after it was recut by its financeers and Cammell sadly took his life soon afterwards. A few years later, however, the film was restored to Cammell's original vision by Frank Mazolla (Campbell's longtime editor) and released theatrically and on DVD in the U.K., where it helped to salvage the reputations of both the director and the film itself. North American theatrical screenings of this cut have been way too scarce, but it opens the series tomorrow night and will be screened at random times throughout the week. I was lucky enough to attend this cut's North American premiere at the Fantasia film festival in 2000 and the packed house at the Imperial roared its approval, much to Mazzola's pride and relief. WILD SIDE definitely lives up to its title, as it's a crazy and unrestrained little movie. It's a Cammell film through and through and this cut also showcases some of the best acting of its three leads, Anne Heche, Steven Bauer and a completely off-the-hook Christopher Walken in a performance that needs to be seen to be believed. The plot (corperate banker by day/hooker by night Heche falls for Joan Chen while getting mixed up with mobster Walken) may not sound like much, but it's nothing more than a springboard for Cammell's recurring theme of split personalities. One scene in particular, where Walken suggest the only way his chauffeur Bauer can re-earn his trust is by letting Walken rape him, is one never be forgotten. If this Morricone thing wasn't going on this weekend I'd be here in a heartbeat, but it's running next weekend, too, so guess where I'll be then? This fest also presents an extremely rare screening of Cammell's 1987 thriller WHITE OF THE EYE, which recently screened at last year's Fantasia, and is likewise highly recommended. Make a point of seeing at least one of these films.

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