When you have no budget, a cast of unknowns, and a weird idea, how do you turn it into a movie? Writer/Director John Sayles gives us some guidelines for doing just that with this way off center look at cross cultural science fiction.
It is hard to imagine the creativity that is required to work within the limitations that this movie seems to have had. In 1984, this was indie movie twice removed. The info I found says that Sayles payed for the film partially with funds from the MacArthur Genius grant he received. He was most known for scriptwriting for Roger Corman films and being an ace script doctor. Oh, and he made the influential “Return of the Secaucus 7″. I’ve only seen four of his movies and this was the first one I saw in a theater.
When people hear the name of Clint Eastwood, there are usually two images that pop into their heads. He is the stoic police detective with a big gun, pursuing justice in whatever form, or he is an avenging cowboy, sometimes a crook sometimes a hero but always dangerous. Even after directing films well out of both genres and not appearing in one for a dozen years, those images will remain. Between 1971 and 1988 he played Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan five times. During that period he played a cop in three other movies including a lampoon of himself in “City Heat”. As Detective Wes Block in the movie “Tightrope” Eastwood goes in a very different direction than all the other cops he has played.
Block is investigating a series of homicides that are connected to the underground sex trade in the New Orleans area. This is a problem for him because after his wife left him, Block has turned to that world for sexual release and some power over women, the same characteristics that seem to be driving the killer. He has to face his own demons and try to understand the nature of a man who humiliates women in an attempt to stop him.
Steven Spielberg is rightly credited with being the most effective visualizer of stories working in the last forty years. He took a liability like a non-functioning mechanical shark and managed to create an extremely visceral film out of it. That “Jaws” works is largely a function of his ability to feel how a movie will play to an audience. He took the extra step when making that film, of shooting additional material in the pool of one of his collaborators, to get the audience reaction right. The opening of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is a litany of visual and emotional elements from the Saturday serialized films of the Golden Age, but updated and intensified as only Spielberg has been able to manage. The brutality and honesty of the first half hour of “Saving Private Ryan” is a testament to being able to connect with an audience’s emotions in the strongest possible ways. Plenty of horror films have been as graphic and disturbing, but none have carried the power of those horrifying images the way that this World War II film managed to do. Continue reading