Friday, January 16, 2009


Liebestraum (Mike Figgis, 1991) [4]

Liebestraum is still the only major theatrical film to be filmed here in Binghamton, which is perhaps why the film is more a curiosity to me than anything else. It's hard to objectively review a film when you're picking apart each scene for every landmark and other signifiers of the town. I give Figgis credit for this at least: he's made a film that an overwhelming majority of people in Binghamton would be positively bored watching. All that said, this is a film where style definitely trumps story, a sort of neo-noir full of interesting shadows and light but bogged down by an all too predictable story with too many clunky scenes. An architecture writer (Kevin Anderson) comes to a small town to visit his ailing mother only to run into an old friend (Bill Pullman), planning to demolish a historic cast iron building (the crux of filming this in Binghamton was that we have one of the few cast iron exterior buildings left standing in the world). Nick, the writer, becomes embroidered in the standard noir role, thrust into extraordinary circumstances, falling into a relationship with his friend's wife (Pamela Gidley) and uncovering a murder mystery that happened in the building years earlier which is some how connected to him. The problem with the story is that it all comes together too neatly in the way you expect it to, with a resolution and ending that is all too obvious too early. A lot of scenes become bogged down in clunky dialogue and dream sequences that would only be considered avant-garde to those who never leave the multiplex. That all combined is probably too much for the film to overcome but Figgis certainly gets his lighting and shadows down pat for a noir. It's by far the most interesting aspect of the film but only in a few cases can style overshadow substance. It's also a little too slick and polished for me, missing the gritty, dirty look that I find engrossing about film noir.

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