“Hey don’t take a shower, I want us to smell like we’ve been fucking.”
I watched this out of morbid curiosity, but it ended up being great, making its own mark without losing track of the original’s vision.
A lot of this is due to Gere, who plays his part with a wild, deliberate bombast and childishness that approaches Cage-levels of expression. His Jesse is a Silver Surfer obsessed, Jerry-Lewis impersonating man out of his time – he’s bound to die from the first frame, because he’s living in the time that the original film’s criminal loved.
Director Jim McBride highlights the blatant artifice behind his concept – he uses obvious rear projection and garish neon lighting a ton – but infuses that self-awareness with a true sense of romanticism that actually gives this a sense of real tragedy missing from the original. As much as this remake requires Godard’s masterpiece to work as a reflection, it is too sincere to have that level of removed cool that makes the original so bracing.
All of this leads to a jaw dropping and bold finale in which accordions bleed into Jerry Lee Lewis and back again, and Gere gives such a wily smile that it hurts. You see in that final freeze frame the mark of true vision, and one that justifies its conceptually baffling existence.
The one thing holding this back from masterpiece status – and it’s so close, damnit – is that the female lead (Valerie Kaprisky) is unbelievably terrible. She’s sounds like Tommy Wiseau with every line reading and has no presence. The fact that Gere is able to be so incredible against her limp wall of jelly is kind of amazing. It seems like she she was only cast because she truly does look the part, she truly does have good enough cheek bones that you could see Gere’s imbecile fall for her. But every time she has to lead a scene and act, the movie stops dead, and that is a true shame, because the rest is amazing.
“French girl, school girl, great girl, kills me.”