MOVIE #1,633 • 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿 • 05.14.24 Nicolas Roeg has officially vaulted to the top of my list of filmmakers next in line for a Dir...


MOVIE #1,633 • 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿 • 05.14.24
Nicolas Roeg has officially vaulted to the top of my list of filmmakers next in line for a Director Focus fill-in series (I'm working on Sholder and Smith currently). I've seen just two of his films now, this and The Man Who Fell to Earth, but I'm fully hooked on his anything-goes, messy-as-hell style. This one isn't even considered to be among his very best (perhaps a hidden gem) yet it's still so gloriously big, showy in a purely cinematic way wherein its plentiful flaws are completely overshadowed by sheer exuberance, non-stop visual delights and a slew of fun performances by an array of mostly miscast actors.

Joe Pesci plays a Jewish crime boss, which is halfway against type, but Mickey Rourke as a nebbish, spectacled real estate lawyer is all the way out there, yet both roles still mostly work, especially the latter (Pesci feels out of place at times, like he knows he’s not quite right for this crime saga that often leans into the more artsy/psychological thriller side of things).
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Rourke giving such a controlled performance and it’s a good one, especially next to the big characters, like Gene Hackman and Rutger Hauer in the leads.

There’s an occult/magical thread running through Eureka that’s both completely half-baked and really exciting, cutting up your expectations for what a film like this should look and feel like. The first thirty minutes take place in 1925 and play out like a fever dream: Hackman, as the gold prospector Jack McCann, battles the elements of the Yukon in search of fortunes, encountering a clairvoyant who bestows him a philosopher’s stone and all kinds of insanity along the way, including a derelict man who blows his brains out in graphic fashion…

And we’re just six minutes into the film! Everything is so stylized, frenetic and frankly disheveled, all to such a massive and dizzying degree. McCann is fond of echoing certain catchphrases as well, both cliche (“I never earned a nickel off another man’s sweat”) and oblique (“Gold smells stronger than a woman”). So much of the screenplay is full of lofty platitudes (“I used to have it all now I have everything“) that sound trenchant but are essentially meaningless. By the time we get to the time jump and McCann is living on a Caribbean island (that he also owns) you’re either fully onboard or turned off by the movie’s chaotic showiness. There are so many nifty cross-cuts…

Rutger Hauer plays the husband of McCann’s daughter (Theresa Russell) and is every bit the equal to Hackman as they take turns seeing how can be more insane (when he takes part in a tribal island orgy and dances with a man in drag and snake, I think he takes the cake).

Despite the seemingly dense plot, its main theme isn’t difficult to parse: that it’s all about the search, not the reward. Sure, things get stodgy in the courtroom proceedings by the end of the third act, with overlong monologues that have you pining for more action and some of that wonderful visual flare, but this is still an excellent film. And I’m not alone in thinking this…
Film critic and film maker Mark Cousins put Eureka in his top-10 favorite films in the Sight & Sound Greatest Films poll 2012 and has called the film a "masterpiece". Director Danny Boyle listed Eureka as one of his top-five favorite films of all time.
I should be able to start the Nicolas Roeg Director Focus proper some time in July, so stay tuned.

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Eureka is a 1983 psychological drama film directed by Nicolas Roeg, and starring Gene Hackman, Rutger Hauer, Theresa Russell, Mickey Rourke, and Joe Pesci. It follows the life of a Klondike prospector who becomes one of the world's wealthiest men after striking gold in 1925, but, 20 years on, fears that he is being preyed upon by his daughter and her social-climbing husband, as well as a mobster attempting to usurp the Caribbean island he owns. The screenplay is loosely based on the unsolved murder of Sir Harry Oakes in the Bahamas in 1943. It was released on May 5, 1983.


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