Dir: Wim Wenders. US.2005. 122mins.
Reunited for the first timein 20 years, Wim Wenders and Sam Shepard fail to rekindle the magic of theircollaboration on Palme D'Or winner Paris, Texas. Don't Come Knockingis a film of striking compositions and telling moments that never achieves thetender depths of emotion that distinguished its illustrious predecessor andmade it such a high point in Wenders career. Stilted dialogue, awkwardperformances and some unconvincing plot details all work against the possibilityof lightning striking twice. Even the music of T-Bone Burnett isn't a match forRy Cooder's contributions to Paris, Texas.
This may be Wenders mostmarketable work in a number of years but universal critical support cannot beguaranteed and audience curiosity will only be able to carry it to limitedreturns.
There are interestingcomparisons to be made with the Jim Jarmusch film Broken Flowers inwhich another older man comes to realise that something has been missing fromwhat should have been the most rewarding years of his life. Jarmusch approachedthe subject with wit and grace; Wenders and Shepard are more earnest andplodding in their attempts to illuminate the themes of absent fathers, lostyears and blighted lives.
A star of the kind ofwesterns that everybody seemed to stop making 40 years ago, Howard Spence (SamShepard) walks off the set of Phantom Of The West and rides into thesunset. A surfeit of booze, women and hellraiser headlines have finallyprompted a crisis. The search for some sense of himself or some value to hislife begins with a rare visit to his mother Lulu (Eva Marie Saint) who informshim that he has a son he has never met.
Sensing that this couldfill the void for him, he sets off to Butte, Indiana for a reunion with lost loveDoreen (Jessica Lange) and a meeting with the son she bore him 30 years ago.
Don't Come Knocking sounds promising enough onpaper but Shepard's flinty, care worn Spence never really engages oursympathies. His self-destructive behaviour and critical encounters don't makeus ache for the apparent emptiness in his soul.
The film itself is more anuneven series of moments than a smooth flowing piece. The best scenes are theones between Spence and Lulu (beautifully played by veteran Eva Marie Saint)and Spencer and Doreen, with Jessica Lange on bravura form in a sequence whenshe unleashes the pent up frustrations of three decades of neglect.
Sarah Polley remains amarginal, underdeveloped presence as Sky, a young woman who also believesSpence is her father. Tim Roth makes several creepy appearances as thefastidious detective hired to escort Spence back to the movie set but GabrielMann badly overplays son Earl's reaction to his arrival with an unsubtledisplay of fury and petulance that seems more appropriate to a character 10years younger. It also seems highly unlikely that he has never heard of Spencegiven his tabloid notoriety and the fact that his mother's diner is decoratedwith posters from his films.
The real shining star of Don'tCome Knocking is the cinematographer Franz Lustig who paints the Americanwest in wonderfully vibrant colours and piercing light, capturing Butte inEdward Hopper visions of lonely hotel rooms and shadow-filled diners. If onlythe rest of the film could have matched his exceptional artistry then Don'tCome Knocking might have been something special.
Reverse Angle Production
Eva Marie Saint