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ARIZONA DREAM (director/writer: Emir Kusturica; screenwriter: David Atkins; cinematographer: Vilko Filac; editor: Andrija Zafranovic; music: Goran Bregovic; cast: Johnny Depp (Axel), Jerry Lewis (Leo), Faye Dunaway (Elaine), Lili Taylor (Grace), Vincent Gallo (Paul), Paulina Porizkova (Millie); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Claudie Ossard; Warner Brothers; 1992)
Though entertaining at times, it’s not everyone’s dream pic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Offbeat fantasy comedy, filled with surreal visuals, weird dialogue, self-indulgent visionary messages and a non-linear story. Though entertaining at times, it’s not everyone’s dream pic. If you can go fishing with the lunacy, it should catch your fancy. It’s directed by the Bosnian-born filmmaker Emir Kusturica(“Underground“/”The Eternal”/”Time of the Gypsies”) and co-written by Kusturica and David Atkins. This is Kusturica’s only American film. The director and studio had some difference of artistic opinions over filming, delaying its actual release until 1994. The studio also cut a 12-minute finale sequence with Jerry Lewis.

Axel (Johnny Depp) is a young dreamer. The lad dreams of an Eskimo boy who finds a unique fish that has both eyes on one side of its head. For a living he tags fish in NY harbor for the Department of Fish and Game. His wealthy car dealer Uncle Leo (Jerry Lewis), from Arizona, sends his Cousin Paul (Vincent Gallo) to bring Axel back to attend his wedding with the much younger Millie (Paulina Porizkova). In Arizona Axel meets the suicidal copper heiress Grace (Lili Taylor) and her bizarre stepmother Elaine (Faye Dunaway). Axel chooses to get on with the older Elaine, which leads to several off-the-wall adventures.

The energetic pic never stays on course, as it veers between parody and self-parody. It’s worth catching for its strangeness, and that the director is willing to go to the mat for his visuals.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”