Monday, 30 November 2015

Arizona Dream.

Described as a surrealist comedy drama this early outing for both Johnny Depp and Vincent Gallo is a 'vision of the world that does not correspond to the weary write by numbers formulas of standard screenplays'[1]. Certainly more European than American Arizona Dream (1993) was filmed in 1991 released all over Europe in 1993 where it was highly regarded eventually becoming a cult film in France, but did not get a theatrical release in the USA until September 1994 and in the UK in June 1995, even a decent  DVD release never came about until much later. Watching this film you can't help but question why was there a delay in releasing this intriguing movie?
The wonderful Lili Taylor with a young looking Johnny Depp.
Directed and written by filmmaker Emir Kusturica. Although he has twice won the Palme d'Or at Cannes his is a name I was not familiar with but I must admit I was very impressed with my first experience of the Serbian director. Surrealistic is certainly the correct description for a film in which you’re never sure quite what's going to happen next! Depp plays Axel Blackmar whose dream about an Eskimo, who catches a rare halibut, gets rescued by his dog and finally gets the fish back to his family, opens the preceding's. Both the dog and the halibut make further appearances in the movie as our story unfolds.
Vincent Gallo and Faye Dunaway.
Axel earns his living tagging fish in New York City and it’s there he is approached by his cousin Paul Leger (Gallo best known for his roles in Buffalo 66 in 1998 and The Brown Bunny in 2003) to travel back to Arizona to be the best man at his Uncle Leo’s wedding (a truly great role for comedian Jerry Lewis whose ‘made up’ Eskimo language is one of the movies highlight's) to a much younger woman. Paul, who thinks of him self as a great ladies man, dreams of being an actor while Leo Sweetie dreams of selling enough Cadillac’s piled on top of one another to reach the moon. Leo talks Axel into becoming a salesman with the eventual aim of him taking over the management of his car sales business. While attempting to sell Cadillac’s Axel meets two women Elaine (Faye Dunaway) who dreams of building a flying machine and her stepdaughter Grace Stalker (Lili Taylor, who also played opposite Depp in 2009’s Public Enemies and was the first to be cast in this movie) who dreams of killing herself and being reincarnated as a turtle.
The comedic Jerry Lewis.
I think you may gleam from my brief description that Kusturica's beautifully evocative movie is not your standard main steam cinematic fodder but something slightly of the wall; well ok it's a long way of the wall! Ten years in the planning/writing stage it took a year to shoot during which time the director had a nervous breakdown! First cut was 4 hours that was finally reduced to around 140 minutes for release. In an interview Depp said all the actors morphed into the character that they were playing and that the script was adjusted and altered as the filming progressed also additional scenes were added. The director's work reminds me of Fellini, a man who also has his own unique way of working, and does not sound an easy man to work with, although it is said that after some initial problems he got on very well with his lead star. An unusual but very diverting piece of movie making and one I would highly recommend.

....and playing us out tonight.....

[1] Chicago Sun-Times Review January 1995

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