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Juan Miranda
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« on: April 24, 2008, 03:20:42 PM »

Gene Hackman plays gold prospector Jack McCann, a determined individualistic ego maniac (he always refers to himself in the third person) who we see violently struggling to break away from humanity, with the opening chilling lines yelled by his former partner, "Murder! Murder!"


The end

He sets off into the wilderness of Alaska alone. Freezing, he survives an attack by wolves when a meteorite handily lands nearby scaring away the pack. Clutching the heaven sent rock he staggers into an unlikely snow bound, Xanadu like brothel,complete with a chimney smoking as though fed with a hundred Rosebud sledges.


The spell of the Yukon

It's Madam is the dying consumptive Frieda, who seems to be able to see into the future via a crystal ball, warning Jack of his fate through a series of gnomic utterances. She and Jack once had a great romance in Paris, and it's through this split in their passions that the movie's preoccupation's are outlined. "Are you interested in men and women?" she asks, and later the supine miner reveals as couples joylessly copulate for money in the brothel, that for him "Gold smells stronger than a woman." With his luck seemingly changed after finding the meteorite, in one moment of unique and utterly dazzling fulfillment he then strikes it rich beyond his imagination. Jack's tragedy is however, in the words of Robert Service quoted at the end of the picture

"It isn't the gold that I'm wanting,
just so much as finding the gold."

and is cursed with, in Frieda's words, "some leftover life". Cut to the "the war" she predicted, and it's 1945. Jack, one of the wealthiest men in the world lives on Eureka, a private Caribbean island. However his wife is a bored alcoholic, his business associate is  tied into the Miami Mafia and his daughter, whom he has dangerously jealous and unhealthy feelings for is married to a refugee from Nazi occupied France whom he hates, the priaptic and smug Claude Malliot Van Horn.


There will be blood

Fatally the father, daughter and son in law form an obsessed triangle, oblivious to the machinations of the organized crime cabal determined to build a casino on the island closing in on them, and so the story becomes as Freda predicted "a mystery" with a horrifying and brutal murder.

Based loosely on the real life, unsolved killing of millionaire Harry Oakes, EUREKA can easily be described as one weird chunk of film making. So much so its studio United Artists had absolutely no idea what to do with thing and shelved it. This lead to the reclusive Roeg personally taking it into cinemas in an international roadshow event as a means of getting it to an audience. It was in this way that I first saw it in Glasgow in 1984, an experience which left me both bedazzled and baffled, unsure of what I had seen exactly.


Utterly weird

Written by Paul Mayersberg who also scripted Roeg's THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, the film is blocked fairly neatly into three unequal acts. Act one takes place in the 1920's in the snowy, very wild western deserts of Alaska, with Jack the poor but tough and potent miner seeking the gold. Act two takes place during the last days of WWII in a tropical paradise, with Jack living an utterly pointless and dull existence while the "wolves" who were cheated in 1925 circle him again in the form of his own family and the Mafia. Like in an Agetha Christie whodunit everyone becomes a suspect, and has a motive for killing Jack. Act three is a (somewhat overlong) courtroom drama, and it's in this structure that some of the film's problems arise. The early scenes in act one are so cinematically brilliant, with Roeg creating what is arguably his greatest ever sequence when Jack finds the gold, that the rest of the movie feels a little bit of a let down, just as the rest of Jack's life feels a let down for him, like a man "struck by lightning". Mayersberg's dialogue equally has it's problems, it lurches from the embarrassing and painfully pretentious, to the brilliant, insightful and moving, often in the space of the same line.


Aren't lovers necessarily under the spell of each other?

Both Roeg and he are interested in all sorts of esoteric ideas which can easily tip into mumbo jumbo but this is often the staple of many a horror film. All the characters, Jack and his daughter played by Theresa Russell excepted, are seeking some higher "truth". Joe Pesci as the Mafia boss is a pious and philosophical practicing Jew (Pesci also played a Mafia boss for Leone of course in OUATIA, and both films were released the same year). His lawyer henchman, the twitchy Mickey Rourke is a devout Catholic who studies the Cabala. The doomed Frieda has second sight (and playing her, Helena  Kallianiotes is saddled with some of the worst dialogue). Jack's drunken wife (played by Jane Lapotaire) reads tarot cards. Rutgar Hauer as Claude is the most troubled, casting horoscopes, participating in "forbidden" voodoo ceremonies and also dabbling in the Cabala.


D'you do voodoo?

Claude remains the film's most enigmatic figure, a bisexual coward, hated by most of the other characters, "a man who can't pass a mirror without looking into it." Whereas Jack never seems to notice the cold in the Arctic, Claude twice complains of feeling chilled in the tropics. Like Jack he is (possibly) a gold digger of a different order. And yet as played by Hauer he is sympathetic, charismatic and compared to the rest of the eccentrics he is surrounded by, vulnerable, witty and disdainful of wealth, comparing Jack's gold to shit.


Mirror mask

Hauer's performance is one of the film's strengths, along with Gene Hackman's superb portrayal of Jack, a driven, violent and tender Old Testament prophet like figure, "I'm the fellow who knew what he wanted and went out and got it. Tough act to follow." he tells his wife, who once had it all, "Now I just have everything." He is often compared directly with Charles Foster Kane, sporting a similar mustache, married to a drunk wife, living in his own isolated "No Trespassing" signed mansion with his own emblematic snow dome which is smashed on his death. This murder scene suddenly appearing in such a consciously "artistic" film is a real surprise and shock in it's savagery, protracted length and gore, and whenever I've seen it at the cinema there are many in the audience who can't bare to watch it.

CITIZEN KANE, THE GOLD RUSH, RICH AND STRANGE are all referenced, but the movies most often quoted by Roeg are his own. Indeed his block of work, WALAKABOUT, DON'T LOOK NOW, THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, BAD TIMING, EUREKA and to some extent INSIGNIFICANCE all seem to be remakes of the same film. Unlike Jack McCann, Roeg certainly is "interested in men and women".


Mrs. Roeg

His young wife Theresa Russell is superb in the picture, stunning to look at, though Roeg over indulges her performance in places, allowing her to become shrill and irritating in the court scene. Another of the film's stars is Alex (DEATH LINE) Thomson's stunning cinematography, with Roeg himself operating the camera in some scenes. A former cinematographer himself of course (MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH) Roeg's films (up to a date) always looked fabulous, and along with Leone and Robert Altman, he was one of the few directors who really understood how and when to use a zoom lens to heighten emotion. It will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Roeg's other films that EUREKA is erotic, brutal, puzzling and closes with a vivid feeling of melancholy and tragic nostalgia. A very bloody masterpiece, and sadly Roeg's last truly great picture.


The lost traveller

« Last Edit: April 24, 2008, 03:41:29 PM by Juan Miranda » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2008, 05:54:44 PM »

Um... okay?

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« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2008, 09:33:22 PM »

 Afro  Enjoyed reading your descriptive post....  nice screen caps as well.  I don't even think I've seen parts of Eureka.  I'd like to check it out sometime.  Hard to believe that Roeg is going to be 80 this year!  Happy belated to you btw.



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Juan Miranda
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« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2008, 05:41:48 AM »

Happy belated to you btw.

Thanks N_SS. Spent it in Milano, eating way too much ice cream...

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