DON'T COME KNOCKING
Howard Spence (Sam Shepard), an ageing and faded actor famous for his cowboy roles, is making a B picture out in the flatlands, when he decides to simply go walkabout. His destination is Elko, Nevada, where he looks up his mother (Eva Marie Saint), with whom he has hardly kept in touch and hasn't seen for two decades or more. She has kept up with her son through the cheap mags and tabloids, who reported every drug bust and drunken brawl in his downward trajectory. She mentions that a woman called many years ago, after he made his last big hit filmed at Butte in Montana, looking for him ... pregnant. With the film company's bond agent Sutter (Tim Roth) on his trail, Howard moves on - to Butte, where he finds the woman with whom he had that fling, Doreen (Jessica Lange), still in the same saloon, although now she's the manager. And Doreen tells him that the guy singing on the small stage, Earl (Gabriel Mann) is his son. But that's not all he finds.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Their partnership on Paris, Texas is legendary: Sam Shepard and Wim Wenders are legends in their own rights, too, and it was that chemistry that they each wanted to revisit by making another film together, and returning to the psychology of the Western through European eyes. They should have known, being worldly and wise, that it's dangerous to revisit favourite old haunts with high expectations. It's a romantic ideal to go back to where you created some sort of magic at one time.
The story, jointly cooked up, is reasonable, if not their best, but Shepard's screenplay is a real disappointment, failing to lock into gear at any time. There are performance flaws, too, with the talented Jessica Lange given a set of directions that take her off the road to an incoherent character, and Gabriel Mann badly offside with his furious Earl.
There are odd lapses in direction, too, like Butte's deserted, echoing streets contrast oddly with the crowded saloon where Earl sings and Howard meets Doreen. The film within the film, a small device in which Howard is making a B Western, suffers from lazy writing. Nobody is making B Westerns with old, has been actors, not even with 20 something love interests, and the fakery shows. There's a really silly, heavy handed attempt at offbeat humour with a scene in the saloon, where the insurance agent (Tim Roth) discusses the fries on the menu with Doreen (Jessica Lange).
So the basic story isn't told with the skills we'd expect and some elements are woefully underdeveloped.
T Bone Burnett's music and Franz Lustig's score are the film's saviours; the former giving iconic guitar cues a fresh relevance, the latter likewise capturing the expected images in unexpectedly new light. Eva Marie Saint - Clark Kent's mum in Superman Return - is the older mother of choice it seems, and lovely she is at it.
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DON'T COME KNOCKING (M)
CAST: Sam Shepard, Jessica Lange, Tim Roth, Gabriel Mann, Sarah Polley, Fairuza Balk, Eva Marie Saint
PRODUCER: Peter Schwartzkopff
DIRECTOR: Wim Wenders
SCRIPT: Sam Shepard (story by Sam Shepard)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Franz Lustig
EDITOR: Peter Przygodda, Oli Weiss
MUSIC: T-Bone Burnett
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nathan Amondson
RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 6, 2006 (Melbourne)
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: December 28, 2006
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.