Review of Eureka
This is one of the few Nicolas Roeg movies that I hadn`t seen - until now. 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. For the rest of us though it`s an inconsistent array of cinematic genius and dull drama, that is occasionally breathtaking and at other times, deeply disappointing. Maybe that accounts for the delayed release. This has appeared almost as part of a `cleaning out the movie cupboard` programme, and with little fanfare. Perhaps UA are still smarting from the heavy investment in what proved to be a box-office failure, despite its impressive cast of first-rate actors.
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 Yukan, 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.
The cinematography is quite brilliant here - 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 (Pesci) and his good-looking lawyer friend (Mickey Rourke pre-plastic surgery) plot to separate McCann from his fortune, denouncing him as a `dinasour` 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.
An acceptable print, though lacking in contrast which makes me wonder if this is a PAL transfer from an NTSC master. Having never seen the film before it`s difficult to say.
A fine and imaginative soundtrack (this is Roeg in the driving seat after all) and it`s perfectly well represented and mastered here.
None - unless you count a trailer and a whole heap of language choices as `Features`.
Whilst certainly not 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 probably a movie that is best viewed once. Not for everyone.