CAVEMANíS VALENTINE, THE
Reviewed September 29th, 2001 by David Nusair
Thereís nothing worse than watching a movie directed by someone with delusions of grandeur. The Cavemanís Valentine is helmed by just such a person.
Kasi Lemmonsí first feature, Eveís Bayou, was a competently directed feature but nothing spectacularly entertaining (although, Roger Ebert called it the best movie of the year!) Now, with The Cavemanís Valentine, she seems to fancy herself a real director, complete with the ability to play around with the style of her movie. But it just doesnít work. Where other stylish directors (Brian DePalma and Martin Scorsese, to name the two most skilled) are able to use their camera to further their story, Lemmons uses various camera tricks and visual pyrotechnics as a distraction Ė she distances the audience from the material with her various experimental ideas.
Samuel L. Jackson stars as a once-prominent pianist, whoís insanity lead him to be shunned from his upper-class existence, and is now relegated to living in a cave on the outskirts of town. One day, he discovers a dead body outside his cave and after realizing the police arenít going to do a proper investigation, since the deceased was homeless, he decides to launch his own inquiry.
As a concept, this isnít bad. Itís the execution thatís all wrong. Lemmons is determined to drill into our heads the notion that Jacksonís character is COMPLETELY INSANE, so she constantly cuts to bizarre shots of naked angels cavorting around a seemingly sane Jackson playing the piano. Add to this a benevolent and unseen phantom that Jackson believes resides in the top of the Empire State Building (from which green lights emanate every time Lemmons cuts to it) and that Jackson has named Stuyvescent Ė and youíve got yourself a director who sabotages the storyline of her own movie by tossing in various pointless interludes of insanity. And itís not even necessary. From the first frame of the film, thereís no doubt that Jackson is completely nuts. His performance (which is quite over-the-top, even by Jacksonís standards) tells us in implicit detail that this is a character that is a few tacos short of a combo plate.
The murder/mystery aspect of the story is fairly interesting, though by the time the whole thing is sorted out, itís impossible to care because of the ordeal Lemmonsí has put the audience through. The Cavemanís Valentine seems less like a movie and more like a film school experiment. Hopefully Lemmons (who does have the ability to tell a linear story Ė Eveís Bayou, as mediocre as it is, at least made sense) will learn from this and try the more traditional route with her next picture.
Audio: The Cavemanís Valentine is presented with a DD 5.1 soundtrack and, on the whole, is pretty impressive. Thereís lots of spatial effects in this film (mostly due to Jacksonís crazy visions) and this is a track that handles them quite well. Quieter dialogue sequences are just as good, with speech coming through crisp and clear.
Video: An anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer is what you get here, and itís solid. Blacks are deep and bright daylight scenes are clear. This is another great transfer from Universal.
Extras: First up is a commentary track with director Lemmons and editor Terilyn Shropshire. While not a stellar track, the two do provide some insight into the making of the movie and Lemmons talks about her artistic intentions (however misguided they may be). Along with a trailer, cast/crew biographies and filmographies, thereís four deleted scenes. Totally around 16 minutes, these scenes are incredibly useless and itís very easy to see why they were excised.
The Cavemanís Valentine is worth it only if youíre a die hard Jackson fan and must see everything heís in. Otherwise, donít bother.
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