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CANDY MOUNTAIN (directors: Robert Frank/Rudy Wurlitzer; screenwriter: Rudy Wurlitzer; cinematographer: Pio Corradi; editor: Jennifer Auge; music: Dr. John/David Johansen/Rita MacNeil/Leon Redbone; cast: Kevin J O’Connor (Julius Book), Harris Yulin (Elmore Silk), Tom Waits (Al Silk), Bulle Ogier (Cornelia), Roberts Blossom (Archie), Leon Redbone (Leon), Dr John (Henry), Rita MacNeil (Winnie), Joe Strummer (Mario), Laurie Metcalf (Alice), Jayne Eastwood (Lucille), Kazuko Oshima (Koko Yamamoto), Eric Mitchell (Gunther), David Johansen (Keith Burns), Dee De Antonio (Lou Sultan), Mary Margaret O’Hara (Darlene), Rockets Redglare (Van Driver); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Ruth Waldburger; Republic Pictures; 1987-Switzerland/France/Canada)
“Enjoyably weird quintessential road movie.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Another look at Jack Kerouac’s myth of the open road as truth, that’s admirably codirected by Robert Frank (“Pull My Daisy,” still photographer and underground filmmaker) and Rudy Wurlitzer (wrote screenplays for “Two Lane Blacktop” and “Walker”). The talented duo give this offbeat road movie an in-your-face realistic hipster’s comical edge. Wurlitzer hands in the witty screenplay that leaves only the simple message that ”Freedom doesn’t have much to do with the road one way or another.” Frank shows he has the keen eye of a photographer in capturing the cold barren landscape traversed and also the grasping look in the assortment of marginalized characters trying to find a place for themselves in such an indifferent world.

Mediocre guitarist Julius Book (Kevin J O’Connor) quits his job as a carpenter and dreams of rock star fame and fortune. He sees an opportunity for success when he pretends to know master acoustic guitar maker dropout for the last two decades Elmore Silk (Harris Yulin) personally and convinces lead big-time rock singer Keith Burns (David Johansen) to give him $2,000 expense money to locate him with the ultimate aim of getting the elusive craftsman genius to sell Burns his valuable rare guitars (which are valued at around $20,000 a pop).

Julius leaves New York City determined to accomplish this mission but things go awry immediately, as his unhappy girlfriend Darlene dumps him at the first gas station stop and takes back her car. A toothless guy in a van (Rockets Redglare) who witnessed the dispute, gives Julius a lift to the house of Elmore’s wealthy younger brother (Tom Waits) and tells his captive passenger “Life ain’t no Candy Mountain” and then charges him $50 for the ride. The brother dressed in a plaid golf outfit tells his perplexed guest to ‘play golf instead of traveling without knowing where you’re going’ and then sells Julius his old T-Bird and directs him to a trailer park near Niagara Falls, where Elmore lives with his daughter. Once there Julius finds her locked into a bad marriage with the mean-spirited, wheelchair-bound Henry (Dr. John) and in order to get Elmore’s new address in Canada he has to trade his car for their rundown Volkswagen van. When he goes off the road in Canada and crashes into a parked boat, he’s arrested by father (Roberts Blossom) and son (Leon Redbone) lawmen and after two days decides to sign over his car to get freed from jail.

At a remote place in the prairie, after hitching a ride with a sad drunk, the slightly less than perceptive Julius contacts a French woman (Bulle Ogier) who says Elmore left her a few months ago and points him in the direction of Nova Scotia after giving him a sympathy fuck. The determined Julius, without money or a car, manages to get a ride with a woman who wants to hunt deer on someone else’s property and takes the reluctant rider along for company. Finally, he meets Elmore’s latest ex-girlfriend Lucy and is invited to stay in the house until Elmore returns. The meeting, at last, with the cagey Elmore, will prove to be a futile one and the empty-handed Julius is last seen on the snowy road hitching a ride back home. That nothing might have happened to Julius but the loss of time deems a possibility, though there’s also the possibility that Julius might have had an inner life lesson you can never get in school or by not trying something new. This enjoyably weird quintessential road movie has a smooth knowing bohemian way of taking an innocent for a ride that brings him down a few notches from his dreamy mountain top aspirations but doesn’t completely break him.

REVIEWED ON 12/20/2008 GRADE: A-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”