In pre-World War II Sicily, just as the fascists come to power, two men fall in love with the same woman. The changes in their country's politics ultimately take all three on a journey across the ocean to New York.
While a world war rages, Philippe, a draft-dodger from Quebec, takes refuge in the American West, surviving by competing in Charlie Chaplin impersonation contests. As Philippe makes his ... See full summary »
Political and sexual repression in Hungary, just after the revolution of 1956. In 1958, the body of Eva Szalanczky, a political journalist, is discovered near the border. Her friend Livia ... See full summary »
Joshua Tree, 1951 is the provocative and mesmerizing experimental portrait of an icon. Framed in a series of dreamlike, sometimes hallucinatory vignettes, the film draws on striking textures (velvety black-and-white 35mm, grainy bursts of color), highly stylized form, and the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud to question not only the established narrative of James Dean's life but also the process of star-making itself.Written by
From my point of view this rather dreamy film-noir mood piece adds little to our understanding of James Dean as an actor. I followed his career at the time in such magazines as Photoplay and Modern Screen, saw all his movies as soon as they came out, and read the clippings avidly. No ordinary fan at the time believed even the slightest hint that he was gay. Indeed, that whole concept as it is now so glibly thrown about had yet to be taken up by Middle America. He was then defined in part by playing opposite Natalie Wood, Julie Harris, and Elizabeth Taylor. Ditto his penchant for fast cars. If there are in fact scenes in his three films that can be interpreted today as demonstrative of overtly erotic interaction with the likes of Sal Mineo or Rock Hudson, they prove very little about the actor himself.
On the other hand, this film is a compelling cinematic portrait constructed around a half-dozen major biographical studies that provide independent evidence of Dean's early career apart from those films. That limited portrait is what the film is about, not all the other loose ends of his professional career. It is a picture made up of second and third-hand stuff as seen through the virtual lens of a Kodak Brownie camera (I had one of those myself at the time). But just because the portrait is presented in a heavily shaded black- and- white panorama of the Mojave Desert purportedly in 1951 is no reason to regard it as historically superior to the more linear and Technicolor alternative that has yet to be filmed.
James Dean deserves a film version of his life that explores more fully his childhood, his teens, his years in New York, his sexuality (admit it, folks, he was gay), his pixie-like sense of humor, his first breakthrough into major films, and the effect he had on both co- workers and contemporary fans. This present film is like a slowly constructed line drawing, moving snail-like across the page.
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