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, August 14, 2006
This review is from: Don't Come Knocking (DVD)
This movie is for Wim Wenders fans and a little less so for moviegoers who love breath-taking images of the American West, with an ironic sense of how the real- and movie-West often contradict each other. Most of the film's themes come together in the character of Howard Spence (Sam Shepard), a man from a ranch in Nevada who's also had a career as a cowboy movie star. His playboy carelessness (drugs, alcohol, affairs, children he's fathered and doesn't know of) is a match for the reckless abuse of the land itself, the John Ford-like setting of southern Utah where his current movie is being shot contrasting with the unreal glitter of gambling casinos in Elko and the devastated city of Butte, where the vast open pit of what was once the Anaconda copper mine is now filling with toxic ground water.
For viewers a little puzzled by this rather loosely constructed and long-winded film, the DVD commentary by Wenders is a richly informative discussion of his intentions with the film along with anecdotes about making it (scenes created on the spot, the influence of painter Edward Hopper, also the story behind the final image of the film). Wenders' explanation of how he and Shepard wrote the film together and made it over a period of five years do much to account for its somewhat rambling structure.
The performances by the seasoned actors are great, including Jessica Lange (who would have remained far more beautiful and expressive without a facelift) flying into an unexpected rage in her last scene with a stunned Shepard and actually dislocating her shoulder as she hits him with a big handbag. However, it was harder for this viewer to wax as enthusiastic as Wenders about his younger actors, who seemed often vague about who and what they were supposed to be.
Shepard's usual themes are here - about family relationships and the dislocations between fathers and their children. The theatricality of his imagination comes through in long monologues and a funeral urn as an unfortunate stage prop. But Sam himself is wonderful to watch in this his own creation, and you hang on to the end waiting for the illumination that his playwright's mind is seeking in its journey across interior and exterior landscapes.
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