Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Twilight Time - U TURN on Blu-ray ""

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Twilight Time - U TURN on Blu-ray

U TURN (1997; Oliver Stone)
"Darrell, 40,000 people die every day. How come you're not one of 'em."

Oliver Stone says this is probably the darkest and strangest film he ever made. He intended it to be a film noir in the truest sense of the genre in that the film has no real heroes to speak of and he certainly accomplishes that. Even the film's opening credits font resembles the deranged scrawling a of a madman that you might see scratched onto the walls of an asylum.
It's a fascinating treat to see this kind of noir story told through the lens and late 90s editing stylistics of Oliver Stone. All the trappings and claustrophobia of the genre are there, but there's also a bizarre and uneven sense of humor and cruelty to the proceedings that makes the tone and the movie itself difficult to quantify. Of all the revisionist noirs I've seen, this is absolutely one of the bleakest. It's like the raging ID of noir let loose in one movie and it doesn't pull any punches in terms of not only the violence, but the desperation that it exudes throughout. It carries the signature noir fatalism to the end of the line in a way that really gives the feeling of what the noir world would have been like if the old films had had not limitations in terms of how they were able to portray sex and violence. On top of that, the films of the classic era often had at least one redeeming character within them, at least one person who is not totally deceptive, but that isn't the case here. It really is a jet black noir through and through and the characters are full of deceptions upon deceptions in a way that is nearly exhausting. It's hard to believe this is a studio movie to be honest.
One thing that I always enjoy about revisiting late 90s films is the "hey that actor is in this?!" that I tend to have based on the often wonderful casts these movies had. Actors who are hugely A-list now were still in a bit of their infancy back then. Joaquin Phoenix for example pops up in this film in a small part (and he steals every scene he's in) and I could help but be tickled by the serendipity of his presence in this hard-boiled tale especially on the heels of seeing him in INHERENT VICE so recently. Beyond that though, the number of outstanding actors in this extremely bleak and offbeat film is quite remarkable. It's all certainly due to Oliver Stone and the place he was at in his career to be able to pull together this group. So there's Sean Pean of course, but also Billy Bob Thorton, Jon Voight, Powers Boothe, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Lopez, Bo Hopkins, Brent Briscoe and even Claire Danes, Julie Hagerty and Liv Tyler in small roles. It's quite the wall-to-wall all-star game. And like I said to see them as part of this kind of movie and this kind of material is something special. 
The mid to late 1990s is and was an interesting time for movies and it's a period that has fallen into something of a blind spot for movie fans I think over the years I think. It existed  at a point when VHS was on its way out and DVD was on its way in and I feel like a lot of films from that decade have fallen through the cracks a bit. I think U TURN has really been forgotten since it's release in 1997 and I would recommend that those who have a deep love of noir give it at least one more look before writing the movie off. I know I didn't enjoy it nearly as much when I first saw it as I did upon rewatching it on this Blu-ray. It's a tough movie in a lot of ways, but if you're into the genre I think it's worthwhile. I also believe it has a special place in Stone's filmography as a very interesting movie that he made that deserves more recognition than it has gotten.
The transfer looks good though movie fans will wonder why it looks the way it does exactly. Stone explains in the commentary that it was shot on reversal stock and not negative so the footage they exposed while filming is the footage you see in the film. It's a very gritty, grainy look with a lot of colors that pop through that grain nonetheless. It has a high end almost 16mm look to it that is handled wonderfully by longtime Stone cinematographer/collaborator Robert Richardson.

Special Features:
This Twilight Time special edition has not one but two audio commentaries.
-The first is with director Oliver Stone himself. It's a great track and Stone is one of those directors who just perfectly suited to do a commentary. Stone speaks intelligently about everything from how they came up with the title, why they made some of the stylistic choices they made, casting, the story (and the changes they made to it), thematic elements as well as the music (songs and score that were used). Some directors can make a good movie but then have trouble talking about it and articulating why they made the choices they made. Stone doesn't have that trouble.
-The second commentary is with Producer/Production Executive Mike Medavoy and Nick Redman. Medavoy discusses his admiration for Oliver Stone and how they ended up working together. Redman also takes him back to his beginnings and it is quite intriguing to hear him reflect on how he got to where he is (his 318 film career). I mean we are talking about a guy who was involved with the making of movies like ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, ROCKY, ANNIE HALL, APOCALYPSE NOW, RAGING BULL, PLATOON, AMADEUS, ROBOCOP, DANCES WITH WOLVES and SILENCE OF THE LAMBS among many others. He and Nick have a lovely conversation about film in general and what the filmmaking climate was like when Medavoy was just getting started. It's just a great sort of retrospective interview with a man who was a key part of shaping the movies we've loved for many years and the movies we continue to love. 
-This disc has a short 3 min introduction by Oliver Stone as well and an isolated track for Ennio Morricone's score.
U TURN can be purchased (as can all Twilight Time Blu-rays) through

Here's an Access Hollywood Interview with Jennifer Lopez from 1997 wherein she discusses Oliver Stone and her difficulties with watching U TURN after she finished making it and how she may have trouble watching it again:


Richard Brandt said...

Bleak noir...or very, very black comedy, which is how I look at U TURN now. Because once you choose to view it that way, you can laugh your ass off at every subsequent viewing; because it's so loaded with humorous bits, it's really hysterically funny. Penn's blasé response to Phoenix kills me, for example. And this and ANACONDA were when Jon Voight transitioned to being a really interesting character actor.

Steven Millan said...

Had Oliver Stone not chose to deeply dive into becoming a filmmaker specializing in politically motivated films,he would have stuck around long enough in the genre to be perceived by the fans and genre critics as a highly respected filmmaker of bleak and downbeat horror and suspense thrillers,as displayed with SEIZURE,THE HAND,and U-TURN.