Five Corners

Director: Tony Bill

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Five Corners Fve Corners (1987) is a tale of the Bronx in the 1960s, with an extraordinary ensemble cast who capture the mythic qualities of a world-famed working class neighborhood.

I first saw Five Corners as a sparkling 35 mm print at the Seattle International film festival when it was brand new, when it was being trumpeted as a film to change forever Jodie Foster's acting career, which it seems to have done. And yet after a limited theatrical release it seemed to disappear as so many films do.

I could never quite forget it, & delighted to see it on dvd, though somewhat alarmed to discover the transfer is from such a mediocre print. Never mind though; it's a fine enough film it's worth seeing even in this era of High Density when many viewers will find it jarring that a modern film has that fuzzy & scratched vintage appearance.

A mysterious archer has been killing people, but people seem barely to care that at any time a rooftop sniper could put an arrow into anyone.

Heinz (John Turturo) has recently gotten out of prison & is stalking Linda (Jodie Foster), believing there is something between him & the neighborhood goody-two-shoes. He's most definitely a terrifying guy.

Five CornersHe'd served time because he attempted to rape her previously. James (Todd Graff) attempted to intercede to protect her, & ended up crippled for life.

So it had been up to Harry (Tim Robbins) to step up & much more successfully save her. Heinz still bares a grudge against him, with intent to kill.

Since that event in their shared past, gimpy James has remained in love Linda, but she doesn't quite feel it in return. Now she seeks out Harry who she hopes can still protect her. Harry, however, has become a pacifist.

He intends to head South on the freedom train, to help sign up negroes for the vote. In the meantime he's willing to confront Heinz on terms of facing raging violence with pacifism, which Linda might reasonably doubt will do the trick.

A subplot follows the adventures of gum-popping dark-haired Melany & bleach blonde Brita (Elizabeth Berridge & Cathryn de Prume), two glue-sniffing debutantes whose behavior seems so likely to lead to serious trouble.

Would-be rapist Heinz is pretty dim, thinking he can still win over Linda. In his attempts to court her & prove he's a different man now, he kidnaps two penguins from the zoo, to give her as gifts, as she loves animals & her family runs a petshop. When she doesn't want the penguins, Heinz brutally beats one of them to a bloody mess in front of her.

As his psychosis builds through a story that bats itself from sincerity to black comedy, Heinz turns from bullying creep into a veritable Frankenstein monster. It's a tremendously good performance. How good Turturo used to be! He's beein in some great movies since, but hasn't played any character as convincing as this for years. As Heinz' he's mesmerizly horrific.

And yet this crazy s.o.b.'s last contact with his mom is just flat-out misery. Even through his psychosis, it is plain to see to the suffering heart of his insanity.

The juxtoposition of human comedy & human terror is never jarring, the contrasts feel totally realistic. The terrible place the film comes to toward the end could be King Kong & Faye Wray instead of Heinz & Linda. Harry & James arrive to save her, Harry tested to the farthest bounds of a capacity for non-violence in the face of extreme rage & threat to someone he cares about.

Witty dialogue & even a witty musical score make this an edgy offbeat comedy, though it also comes off as part film noir with gloomy depths. It's simply a great, cruel, humane, sad film that deserved much more careful preservation than it's thus far gotten.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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