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Friday, February 27, 2015

LAST EMBRACE (1979)

Jonathan Demme made this misbegotten Hitchcockian thriller between HANDLE WITH CARE (aka CITIZEN’S BAND)/’77 and MELVIN AND HOWARD/’80, two humanist dramedies so welcoming, nonjudgemental & alive with political/cultural savvy they seemed to herald an American Jean Renoir. It never happened. Instead, Demme became 1: A man of many interests & causes; or 2: A filmmaker without focus. Whichever camp you fell into, much of his once edgy work now looks prematurely dulled. No chance of the reverse happening here! LAST EMBRACE is almost shockingly inept. Loaded with Hitchcockian winks (think VERTIGO/’58; SABOTEUR/'42; NORTH BY NORTHWEST/’59), it has Roy Scheider as a wet whippet tracking down the person (or entity) out to get him. As his mysterious helpmate/femme fatale, Janet Margolin is a lost cause with exposed breasts, while a supporting cast of (then) little known stage actors (Christopher Walken, John Glover, Mandy Patinkin, all handpicked by young casting agent Scott Rudin) overact miserably. At least, Miklós Rózsa shows up to score the thing, but he’s in retread mode, far less effective than his late work before & after this. Worst of all, inexplicably so, regular Demme lenser Tak Fujimoto finds new, inappropriate shooting styles for every scene. Any way you slice it, the film is, at best, a needless mediocrity.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Scheider’s next Hitchcock manqué, Robert Benton’s STILL OF THE NIGHT/’82 (co-starring Meryl Streep), was merely disappointing.

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