(1986, US, 109 min, b/w) Dir Randall Hex. Cast Matt Dillon, Stacy Herr, Brad Dourif, Ogdon Marshall.
Matt Dillon’s Cal lives in a town called Blueford in an unnamed Mid-West state. Blueford has been gutted, a depopulated maze of cracked streets and leaning buildings – it’s the mid-Eighties and Reagan’s America is downsizing. Cal lives in an abandoned factory, sleeping the day and boosting cars at night to sell to Dourif’s Cash. He’s in love with Sandy, the skinny half-punk waitress at the local diner who’s too shy to talk (an ethereal Herr in her first film role). He takes her into the country and their love blossoms and they plan their escape from Blueford. So far so generic – one part Badlands to one part Drugstore Cowboy – but what sets it apart is how it’s shot, in luminescent black and white like it’s the last silver nitrate print struck. The film just glows off the screen. The still pace isn’t a problem when it looks this good, giving you all the time in the world to drink up every shot of the big cloud smeared sky, the never-ending wheat fields, the rusting factory hulks, the planes and angles of Herr’s face shot in enraptured close-up. The film ends, not with a bang but a whimper – no high dramatics or adolescent nihilism, just life moving on as life does. When it was released in ’86 it got lost between Blue Velvet and True Stories and Randall Hex – a former war photographer who had captured the war in Vietnam – died two years following this, his only film, in a car accident that some claim still was suicide.