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February 12th, 2014 AP KRYZA | Movie Reviews & Stories
 

AP Film Studies: Crazy in Love

The romantic lunacy of Wild at Heart.

movies_wildatheart_4015HIGHWAY TO HELL: Nicolas Cage. - Image courtesy of Propaganda Films
Love makes people crazy. Just ask Beyoncé. Yet few films capture the complete insanity that occurs the instant that attraction becomes infatuation and then utter, unrelenting, batshit adoration. 

ILLUSTRATION: Hawk Krall
Typically, love in the movies results in characters listening to Train on a rainy night, or being unable to realize that Drew Barrymore might actually suffer from a severe learning disorder. Maybe there will be a gay friend who helps our hero see the light of love. Perhaps there will be a mad dash down an altar. Meg Ryan might crinkle her nose. 

But with the exception of horror flicks, seldom does love on screen manifest itself with the raw lunacy of David Lynch’s 1990 classic, Wild at Heart (playing Valentine’s Day at the Hollywood Theatre). Representing Lynchian surrealism at its peak, Wild at Heart came on the heels of Blue Velvet and at the same time as the groundbreakingly bizarre Twin Peaks. It is, in every way, a love story—albeit one where Wizard of Oz imagery seeps into characters’ psyches, Willem Dafoe transforms into perhaps the most disgusting man ever put to film, and Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern play young lovers whose affection leads them into an advanced state of euphoric bliss that might just be insanity. 

The entire film is a strange odyssey, a nightmare road trip in which the blissed-out lovers are pursued by Dern’s deranged mother (a horrifying Diane Ladd), but it’s early in the film we realize that Sailor and Lula are kinda, sorta insane. And it’s because they’re afflicted with love.

Cage’s snakeskin-jacketed Sailor and Dern’s Lula head to a thrash club in order to celebrate Sailor’s release from prison. Their heads banging and their fists pumping, the two slam all over the dance floor. It’s a hysterical explosion of movement, and not even the least bit romantic—until Lynch lets us into the pair’s hearts. Following a confrontation with a punk, the music drops, and the band goes into a doo-wop number, with Cage crooning as the audience screams like little girls at a Beatles show. 

It’s a hallucinogenic moment even for Lynch, but it’s also a brilliant depiction of what people experience when they fall for one another. Sailor and Lula’s world consists of two people, and it’s not until some other entity crashes in—and Lord knows it does—that anything else can enter their minds. No other film has captured that feeling so well. They are drunk in love. It’s just the two of them, and it’s utterly beautiful, utterly romantic and utterly mad. Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Friday, Feb. 14.


Also Showing: 

  • The Portland Black Film Festival resurrects Soul Train Express 3, a compilation of dance-offs and performances by such legends as Gladys Knight, James Brown and Marvin Gaye. Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Wednesday, Feb. 12.
  • KBOO hits the Clinton Street for its annual Valentine’s Day special, a strange little event that includes a sing-along with host Contessa de la Luna, a Christopher Walken impression contest, and a screening of Kevin Smith’s controversial Dogma. Clinton Street Theater. 7 pm Thursday, Feb. 13.
  • Tony Scott’s True Romance is another depiction of a young couple being crazy because of love, but if Wild at Heart is a surreal work of art, the Quentin Tarantino-penned True Romance is a nerd’s fantasy come to life, starting with a comic-book nerd’s infatuation with a hooker and culminating in the kind of bloodbath that could only come from a young Tarantino. Oh, and the ghost of Elvis tells our hero what to do. Crazy? Yes. Awesome? Of course. But also just escapist popcorn masturbation for dudes who’ve already watched too many movies. Academy Theater. Feb. 14-20.
  • Speaking of crazy, Robin Williams is utterly bonkers in Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King. It might just be the comedian’s finest performance, the centerpiece of a film both warm and eccentric. Laurelhurst Theater. Feb. 14-20.
  • The recently departed Philip Seymour Hoffman turned in one of the best—and goofiest—performances of his career in Punch-Drunk Love, a Paul Thomas Anderson love story in which Adam Sandler breaks character to play a lovelorn loser rather than some dickhead on vacation with his buddies. 5th Avenue Cinema. 7 and 9:30 pm Friday-Saturday and 3 pm Sunday, Feb. 14-16.
  • That Hedwig and the Angry Inch doesn’t play the Clinton Street more regularly is shocking (it’s probably a licensing thing), especially considering that director and star John Cameron Mitchell makes a much more convincing woman than Paris Hilton in Repo. Clinton Street Theater. 7 pm Friday and Sunday and 3 pm Saturday, Feb. 14-16.
  • Prince, perhaps the greatest entertainer out there, can do anything. Except maybe seem tough or act. But he gives it a go in the amazing Purple Rain, which turns 30 this year and remains essential simply for its explosive concert sequences. Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 15.
  • Love and Lust: Underground rolls out a program of sexploitation trailers, plus shorts about porn stores, burlesque and foot fetishism, the last representing the only such film not directed by Tarantino. Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Tuesday, Feb. 18. 
 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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