Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Track 29 (Nicolas Roeg, 1988)
While David Lynch has always been the most obvious influence on director Richard Kelly, I've sometimes wondered if Kelly hasn't also drawn from Nicolas Roeg's dizzying and enigmatic Track 29. Roeg's film (loosely based off a Dennis Potter teleplay) isn't as overt as Kelly's are, but it nevertheless occasionally bubbles with notions of some vague, possibly supernatural mythology operating on levels subterranean from the action occurring on the screen. The "plot" (I use the term only out of necessity) deals with an alcoholic housewife played by Theresa Russell who is one day paid a visit by a young, infantile Englishman (Gary Oldman) who claims to be her son. He could be real, he could be the product of a disturbed mind, or, as the film tantalizingly suggests if you squint hard enough, he could be existing on some kind of fantastic or even abstract middle ground.
And that is one layer. There are others, all the way down to the numerous odd background details that may or may not work as signifiers, as well as the painfully awkward acting choices that are made, aspects that at times almost suggest a sloppy, muddled uncertainty in the direction. But of course we are dealing with Nic Roeg, a very fine and indeed thoughtful/deliberate director who is no doubt acutely aware of everything going on here, and surely has his reasons. So what does it all add up to? I'm not sure, but I'm also not sure that it matters. With Track 29 Roeg has made an often baffling and endlessly fascinating film that I keep returning to, one that for all of its frustrations and ambiguities persists in its uniqueness, and the feeling that it's told a tale very much worth telling. Is it a major Roeg work? At the very least it deserves reappraisal and consideration as such. If someone could release a DVD of it here in the States before the format becomes entirely extinct, well that'd be swell.