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Wild At Heart
Wild at heart and weird on top
Loves: David Lynch, cult movies
Likes: Nic Cage
Dislikes: Freak-out performances
Hates: Unimproved re-issues
The Story So Far...
Director David Lynch's fifth feature film, 1990's Wild at Heart, an adaptation of Barry Gifford's novel, is a blend of a mainstream road trip, a Romeo & Juliet-style romance and a distinctly Lynchian worldview. The results are unique and never boring, as Nic Cage and Laura Dern chase down a dream of love, in the face of some very threatening foes. The film was originally released on DVD by MGM in December of 2004, but has been out of print for some time, while a limited edition Blu-ray (with a print run of just 3000 copies) was put out by Twilight Time in April of 2014. DVDTalk has reviews of both releases..
The tale of Sailor (Nic Cage) and Lula (Laura Dern) is perhaps David Lynch's most mainstream movie, plot-wise, as it follows two damaged young lovers, fueled by passion, as they hit the road in search of a shared love, despite society's condemnations. However, it's also a Lynch movie, so it gets weird. Really weird. Killers with rotten teeth, blown-off hands, faces covered in make-up weird. Did I mention that Cage sings Elvis songs? Oh, and there's a whole Wizard of Oz thing threaded through the movie as well. It's just that kind of film.
And that's a good thing, because it makes for a very entertaining film that drips with style, as brief flashbacks, odd cutaways and mysterious imagery builds Sailor and Lula's backstory methodically over the length of the movie, dropping hints as to how they got to this point. To say they are the results of tragedy is to put it lightly, especially with Lula's wacked-out mother Marietta (Dern's real-life mother Diane Ladd) in the picture. Right from the word "go," Marietta is a problem, as the movie starts with a serious bang, with one of the greatest Nic Cage still frames in the history of Nic Cage.
The relationship between Sailor and Lula is all about passion, as they take every opportunity to make love they can, filmed dreamily by Lynch, in a way that avoids coming off as lurid. That's fortunate, since the film has an abundance of lurid, mostly in the form of the criminal elements that float in and out of the kids' lives, whether it's Willem Dafoe's intensely creepy Bobby or a disturbing figure played by Grace Zabriskie. It takes a special film to make an Elvis-channeling Nic Cage one of the most down-to-Earth parts of a movie, but Wild at Heart achieves that feat, and he's matched by Dern, as the duo turn in a classic couples performance.
Though this is Cage and Dern's opportunity to shine, there are two unusual turns in this movie that exist in a paradox: you could easily remove them from the film with no real ill effect to the plot, but they are essential to the film overall. One is an amazingly efficient appearance by Crispin Glover, who, with one line and a world of physicality, manages to sear his character into your mind, while the other belongs to Sherilyn Fenn, who shows up and then makes you hate that we never see her again. Though it gets a bit strange in the end (which is certainly different than weird) and some of the more extreme performances haven't aged well, Wild at Heart is, as the script says, "wild at heart and weird on top," "hotter than Georgia asphalt" and a "rocking good" time.
The latest addition to Kino's Studio Classics line, Wild at Heart arrives on one DVD, which is packed in a standard keepcase. The disc has a static. anamorphic widescreen menu with options to watch the film, select scenes, adjust the set-up and check out the extras. There are no audio options, but subtitles are available in English SDH. Though it's mentioned above, it's worth noting again that, unlike most Lynch films, this one has chapter stops.
For an SD release, the anamorphic widescreen transfer on this release, which looks to be the same one Lynch supervised for MGM's previous release, is quite nice, with very impressive color and a good amount of fine detail, though black levels could be a bit deeper. Wild at Heart utilizes some intense hues in crafting its world, and whether it's the electric blue of Marietta's dress or bright red blood drops, the saturation is excellent. Though it's over 10 years old at this point, and a touch soft, it's a solid presentation. There are no notable issues with compression artifacts.
The audio is presented via a Dolby Digital 2.0 track (unlike the previous releases, which included a 5.1 mix) and the sound is rather terrific, with a big, bold power that captures the film's use of music wonderfully. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand, with great separation from the soundtrack, while the sound effects are strong as well. With a 2.0 track like this, a 5.1 mix seems like it would be overkill.
The extras from the original DVD are carried over to this release, the deleted scenes from the Lime Green box set have not made the trip. So what we get starts with the excellent 29:55 "Love, Death, Elvis & Oz: The Making of Wild at Heart, which covers the vast majority of what went into the film, via on-set footage and interviews with all the main players, as they discuss the characters, the editing and the big moments.
"David Lynch on the DVD Process" (2:46) is a slightly outdated now, but it has good info, right from Lynch, on what color correction and timing are and how they work in translating a film to home video.
A round-up of odds and ends, "Dell's Lunch Counter" (23:49) loses the interactive quality it had on the previous DVD, but it still has a wealth of interesting content, including interviews with Giffords, Ladd, Dern and Lynch, as they discuss topics including the development of the story, the differences from the book, problems with breaking on the set, toilet troubles and a near-subliminal tribute to Jacques Tati that Lynch included in the movie that you may have missed.
Though shorter than hoped, the 7:16 "Specific Spontaneity: Focus on Lynch" is an amusing peek at what it's like to work with the director, including his obsession with details, as explained via interviews with cast and crew. The praise flows forth deservedly.
An original making-of featurette from when the film was released clocks in at 6:54, and it pales in comparison to the new piece, but as a piece of EPK ephemera, its inclusion is appreciated. Also here are four TV spots (1:09 in total), which indicate the marketing plan was basically "Hey! David Lynch made Twin Peaks too!", while the trailer (1:48) is wonderfully edited to fit with the film's headbanging soundtrack.
The Bottom Line
Lynch is something of an acquired taste, but Wild at Heart might be his most accessible film. But even at that, there's some weird, intense stuff in here, with Dafoe's character alone being enough to freak some people out. However, there's some serious artistry as well, with an alluring mix of mystery, allusion and eroticism. The DVD looks and sounds legitimately great, and there's a lot of extras to enjoy (even if it's still not a complete package.) Now that it's back in print, it's worth adding to any collection, especially if weird cult movies are your thing.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.