Director: John Turturro

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

With a hell of a lot of patience & some appreciation for the physically beautiful set designs & toleratance of existentialist self-absorption, Illuminata (1998) eventally, after an hour or more, begins to be somewhat entertaining.

IlluminataThough visually stunning, there's not a likeable film underneath the fancy dress. It's a phantasmagoric study of an indecipherable play, of its author (played by John Turturro), its actors, its promoters, its critics, & their collective moral, social, & emotional states.Director-actor Turturro is being mightily self-indulgent, tedious to extreme, clever to a fault, & only vapidly intellectual.

Christopher Walken plays a gay version of his "The Continental" character he created for Saturday Night Live, here likened the Macaroni Queen who gives good theatrical reviews only to young men he wants to pork. Susan Sarandan gives John Turturro a hand-job then scares him off with a loony discourse about living always as if on a stage, her profession being her constant companion & only friend, without regard for the fact that she isn't actually any good. Ben Gazarra assaults a patron for attempting to steal a hat that contains the sum total of his character's ability to be expressed on stage, & gets hauled off to jail.

The cast is impressive no doubt, their parodic characters broadly amusing. Yet they trip & twirl & twiddle their way through this film like a mess of frustrated dreamers who've prostituted themselves to commercial filmmaking so long that to now be permitted to be part of a project wackily pretentious & disdainful of plot pleased them no end.

They giddily capture the endless vanity, jealousy, absurdity, insecurity, & strangeness of real acting communities. But without a narrative drive, each scene floats alone like a series of little islands with insufficient context. There's no forward momentum; it's all leading to nothing; & comes off as a flapping bustard or a lavender macaw that has been taught to scream, "Look at me, I'm acting!"

It's art at its most pretending, all egoistic sputum whether assessed for the acting or the writing. Everyone is trying so hard to prove they're artistes that by the very strain of it they more nearly prove the opposite. Some very beautiful puppets appear on their own small stage, & they come off as better actors than are the decorative humans.

Despite that I like High Decadence, & Illuminata is decidedly Decadent in its gaudy sets & purple dialogue, I also want a story, not a disjointed series of braggy expositions. The film does have some great lines imbedded here & there, but taken as a whole, it's all just farting in a paper bag.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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