Eureka (1983 ) *** Nic Roeg Tribute

November 26th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director: Nicholas Roeg     Screenplay: Paul Mayersberg   Writer: Mashall Houts (Who Killed Sir Harry Oakes)

Cast: Gene Hackman, Theresa Russell, Rutger Hauer, Jane Lapotaire, Mickey Rourke, Ed Lauter, Joe Pesci, Cavan Kendall, Corin Redgrave The story of a man richer than Getty, stranger than Hughes

130min | Thriller  | UK US

Nicholas Roeg was a true visionary: his films are unique in portraying our struggle with the mysteries of the universe; in viscerally capturing what it is to be human: Walkabout; Don’t Look Now; The Witches; The Man Who Fell to Earth. They are all romantically sexual, visually audacious; formally superb, thematically adventurous and always powerfully acted and intense as here with this fascinating mix of European and American talent – Mickey Rourke, Joe Pesci and Rutger Hauer at their elegant best before they went for seedier roles, a delightfully graceful Jane Lapotaire and Theresa Russell, the sensual jewell in the crown. Gene Hackman is captivating and masculine in the lead, rocking a rather ill-advised yellow tint in his receding coiffure, he is nonetheless the svelte hero of this impressive fantasy drama. He also gets some dynamite lines: “I’m the most dangerous man I know – once I had it all, now I just have everything”.

EUREKA is a complex tale about greed, power and passionate love. And Roeg certainly knows what it is to be in love and how to express that potently through his characters powerfully portrayed by a international cast of Gene Hackman, There Russell, Rutger Hauer and Jane Lapotaire.

Based on a true story, in 1925, a man (Jack McCann/Hackman) finds a rich source of gold after being empowered by a supernatural lover in the magnificent opening scenes – a ‘mystic Meg’ (Kallianiotes) who has the wonderful line: “we had all the nuggets we needed between your legs”. Becoming the richest the man in world however is not the answer to his McCann’s dreams, and as more complex issues start to emerge in this imagined utopia, we soon learn why.

From the icebound snowscapes of the Yukon the film fast forwards to a sultry Caribbean Island of ‘Eureka’ (actually Jamaica) where Jack now holds sway in the Colonial splendour of 1945. Married to a soignée Coco Chanel lookalike Helen (Jane Lapotaire), the couple no longer have sex so she passes her time reading the cards in hope of inspiration (“You don’t need your fortune told, you’ve got a fortune” quips Jack). They have a daughter Tracy (Jane Russell) whom Jack is obsessed with physically and emotionally but, despite still being daddy’s little girl, she has fallen madly in love with Rutger Hauer’s Claude Maillot Van Horn, a statuesque roué whom Jack falls out with on a regularly basis amid scenes of hilarious violence involving meat cleavers and vituperative exchanges. Strangely, Tracy is also deeply in love with her father but she is sexually in hock to Van Horn. The serpentine narrative is driven forward by Jack’s almost psychotic belief that everyone is after his money: and they are, in their various ways.

EUREKA is a fascinating mess: elegant costumes, spectacular set pieces with cleverly devised supernatural and voodoo elements often threatening to topple the bewildering narrative, although pacing and editing never quite allow this to happen; Roeg deftly mixing moments of raucous melodrama with some quieter meditative scenes. Theresa Russell keeps things exciting both in and out of the bedroom with her extraordinary range of looks (designed by the talented Marit Allen – Eyes Wide Shut and Brokeback Mountain), appearing sexually alluring one minute; kittenishly coy the next and elegantly vivacious in the explosive final court scene. Russell had just married Roeg at the time and was only in her mid twenties but clearly possessed an amazing maturity and feminine allure for one so young.

Paul Mayersberg’s script is fantastically curt: full of witticisms and Roeg brings a scintillating vision to the party with his larger than life characters: women who really know how to exude love and sensuality and men who are masterful and powerfully driven despite their human weaknesses. Hackman and Russell hold sway with their magnetism and extraordinary charisma in this intensely watchable, often complicated, but extremely rewarding rollercoaster. MT


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