Review for Eureka
This was somewhat of a surprise release for me from Eureka’s Masters of Cinema as I hadn’t really considered it a worthy contender – until now. This is probably the third time I’ve seen the film ( I reviewed a DVD release of it some years ago) and, possibly due to seeing a decent transfer on Blu-Ray, have to say it’s better than I remembered it. It’s very impressive indeed, not merely as a result of the cast’s stunning performances, but because everything else works so well too. From some incredibly ambitious cinematography, to its imaginative editing (often juxtaposing shots for dramatic impact) and wonderful score.
But it is a Nicola Roeg film and, not untypically, is quite dark and heavy going, despite his own view that ‘Eureka’ was nothing more than an epic narrative. It has far more depth than merely that.
‘Eureka’ was barely released at the time of its making (in 1982) and, as a result, pretty much overlooked by critics. Caught up in one studio taking over another, and losing the enthusiasm of its studio backers, it almost sunk without trace. Even the DVD release was only a very marginal one, almost unnoticeable at the time. Maybe this ‘Masters of Cinema’ release with an incredibly good transfer, plus contextual extras like interviews with its writer, producer and editor, might help put it back on the map and give it its due.
Always thought provoking (Bad Timing, Walkabout), never predictable (Don`t Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth), Roeg has earned a deserved reputation in the industry for his left of field approach to filmmaking. `Eureka` is less exalted, less mentioned, less discussed - yet it remains one of Roeg`s personal favourites. Certainly it features some attractive footage of his wife (Theresa Russell) in her prime, which may play a part in this assessment, but it may be something deeper too. Possibly something obliquely autobiographical? There`s a telling line in the film that may have some personal resonance for Roeg. "I used to have it all - now I just have everything". This is a deeply depressing and complex movie which may have provided some form of catharsis for Roeg.
The movie`s principal narrative is `the rise and fall of Jack McCann`, a gold prospector who strikes lucky and appears to have it all - yet has nothing worth having. We`re introduced to Jack (Gene Hackman) in the wilds of arctic, screaming to the cruel skies, "I never earned a nickel from another man`s sweat!" - which shows that he`s a man of moral fibre, as well as being slightly unhinged. When he next screams the words, it’s as he’s about to murder his daughters lover, but all that comes later…
The cinematography is quite brilliant, particularly the use of the techno-crane to sweep above Hackman as he rants to the empty sky. When he finally finds the gold he craves the visual metaphors are startling, with gold flowing from the heavens as McCann rants and roars in wonder. The whole movie is like this - linking fact to a visually poetic or spiritual interpretation of those facts, adding layers of potential meaning to every event, however small it may be.
The film then enters its second phase - a time-jump to the Caribbean to `Eureka`, an island now owned by McCann. What brews next is complex and depressing. His wife (Jane Lopontier) has turned to the bottle and seems pre-occupied by Tarot card readings, the first of many oblique references to `dark powers` and forces which later include a healthy dollop of voodoo too.
His daughter (Theresa Russell) is enthralled and in love with a strangely cynical Dutch playboy (Rutger Hauer) who is determined to undermine her father and everything he stands for. The hatred is mutual and lends the film its darkest tension yet, made even crueller by the shared love of his daughter.
Meanwhile, a Miami based gang leader (Joe Pesci) and his good-looking lawyer friend (Mickey Rourke pre-plastic surgery) plot to separate McCann from his fortune, denouncing him as a `dinosaur` who mustn`t stand in the way of (their) progress.
The plot thickens, darkens and twists with some genuinely shocking and tragic moments which lead to the final phase of the movie, the courtroom drama. There is plenty of drama, tears and anguish before the movies twisted climax - which I won`t spoil here.
It’s certainly not a film for the feint-hearted, full of earthy sex, violence and voodoo – an uncomfortable and often disturbing watch, in true Roeg style.But it’s also extremely compelling – like watching a car crash in slow motion that you can do nothing to stop; highly thought provoking, deeply intelligent and brilliantly executed.
The image quality is ten times better than the previous Universal DVD release which was washed out and battered. This Blu-Ray edition looks great with rich detail, colour and contrast.
The extra features are all worthwhile; basically interviews, a trailer and a nice little booklet. The interviews feature the film’s producer, Jeremy Thomas (who also worked on ‘Bad Timing’); the film’s writer, Paul Mayersberg, (who is given more than 60 minutes air-time which is probably a little over-long) and the film’s brilliant editor, Tony Lawson.
You can also select to view the film with just the M & E track (music and effects) which really highlights the power of Stanley Myers excellent score.
Whilst this may not be Roeg`s finest hour, this movie certainly contains some of his finest `minutes` and has much to recommend it. It`s a dark and complex movie, masterfully directed, beautifully and atmospherically shot and played superbly by a fine cast. However, it`s pretty heavy going and left me feeling depressed and exhausted. Its conclusions are hardly comforting and rather like `Bad Timing` is not for everyone. But it is unarguably an excellent film and this edition is clearly the one to get.