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USA 1985
Directed by
Robert Altman
106 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Fool For Love

Much as with his wonderful 1982 transposition from stage to screen of Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Robert Altman does a fine job of filming Sam Shepard's tragi-romantic stage play placing it in a quasi-naturalistic setting of a run-down dustbowl motel.  Like that film, Altman carefully frames his actors. layering the visuals with reflections and mirror images to create a hauntingly dislocated ambience for Shepard's awkward, elliptical explorations of identity construction, role-play, star-crossed love and existential angst.

In what is largely a two-hander that takes place in a single evening, Kim Basinger plays May, a slightly worn single woman whilst Shepard  plays his own lead character, Eddie,  a rodeo cowboy who has come to heal the breach between them after he went off with another woman some time before.  Caught in a hate-love dynamic much of the film is given over to their battle of wills, both acutely aware of their need for each other but both equally disturbed by it. Gradually it emerges that there is more to this than the usual incompatibilities, a tragic depth to their relationship which Altman fleshes out with flashbacks that pointedly do not match the accounts of it being told by the two leads.

Basinger provides a strong sparring partner for Shepard in a film which if not in the league of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? is a marvellously fatalistic essay on the pain of love.  Harry Dean Stanton provides a near-ghost like witness to the drama whilst Randy Quaid plays a good-natured hick who stumbles into it. The ending is perhaps a little too enigmatic for its own good but Fool For Love deserves a place with films like Tender Mercies (1982) in the catalogue of modern cowboy movies.




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