Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Street Of No Return

As is a matter of record, I love Sam Fuller.

Fuller is one of those directors who is completely and utterly themselves. No matter how many bits and pieces of his aethestic end up in the films of Tarantino and Scorsese, Fuller shall always remain Fuller. Never to be imitated. I mean how the hell could you? No one could ever duplicate his particular alchemy of life experience, pulp training, and yellow journalism.

Street Of No Return is his final film (Fuller did direct a TV movie and a TV episode based on Patricia Highsmith after this, but this was his last feature). And like all last films it carries with it a certain weight of expectation. A directors last film (especially when they know it will be their last film) doesn’t merely need to work on its own, but instead must act as a capstone to their entire body of work.

Street of No Return accomplishes this. Showcasing what a truly weird director Sam Fuller could be. Something that often gets overshadowed by his tough guy sensibilities, but it was always an integral part of Fuller's identity (Google his original plan for the opening of Underworld USA sometime). Take the scene in which the two main character’s tender post coital bliss is intercut with the heroine riding a white horse in the alley sans explanation and clothing, save a thong.

Opening with the image of a black man getting hit in the face with a hammer, and getting markedly less subtle from there, Stree Of No Return tells the daringly non linear story of a pop star played by one of the lesser Carradines, who goes for revenge after his girl is killed (?) and his throat slashed. And also stops a race riot (?)

As you might be able to tell if there’s one thing that Street Of No Return doesn’t have, is Fuller’s usual narrative drive. Fuller’s films are usually utterly relentless affairs. It’s a rare film of his that clocks in at over an hour and a half. Street Of No Return is more of a member of the bunch of stuff that happens school of narrative. Suggesting perhaps that Fuller was spending a little too much time listening to his admirers in France. First Carradine is a pop singer. Then he and his girl are being punished for crossing a mobster. Then he’s accused of killing a cop, then he homeless and looking disconcertingly likea drunken Christopher Lambert. And then there’s twenty minutes left so fuck I guess he better go out and get revenge. And hell you might as well have him stop a cadre of Black Militants while your at it.

Its worth mentioning that the one and only Mutherfucking Bill Duke (Official name) is amazing in this. And in his best scene gets to give a speech to a row of prisoners that would make R. Lee Emery blush.

Fuller’s images retain their potent sensuality. And they’re the film’s saving grace. There’s not a shot in the piece not cloaked in sweat, shadow, or violence. Its an overwhelming technique (why oh why did Fuller never direct a Tennessee William’s play?)

Like this review, Street Of No Return is a jumbled mishmash. But it is a completely exhilarating affair. A film that grabs you by the balls (when its not shooting them off) and refuses to let go. It may not be anything more then a master having fun. But damn it sometimes that’s enough.

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