EUREKA (director: Nicolas Roeg; screenwriter: from the book by Marshall Houts/Paul Mayersberg; cinematographer: Alex Thomson; editor: Tony Lawson; music: Stanley Myers; cast: Gene Hackman (Jack McCann), Theresa Russell (Tracy McCann Maillot Van Horn), Rutger Hauer (Claude Maillot Van Horn), Jane Lapotaire (Helen McCann), Mickey Rourke (Aurelio D’Amato), Ed Lauter (Charles Perkins), Helena Kallianiotes (Frieda, fortune teller), Joe Pesci (Mayakofsky), Corin Redgrave (Worsley, lawyer); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Jeremy Thomas; MGM Home Entertainment; 1983-UK/USA)
“In its own convoluted way, tells us that money can’t buy us happiness.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A strange and problematic Citizen Kane-like cult favorite movie, directed with panache by Nicolas Roeg (“Performance”/”Walkabout”/”Don’t Look Now”). It has a moral message about passion and greed: there’s always a price we pay for getting what we desire–everything has a price. It’s based on the book by Marshall Houts and is ambitiously written by Paul Mayersberg.
By 1925 Jack McCann (Gene Hackman) has been a Klondike prospector in the Canadian wilderness for the past 15 years and has come up empty. The obsessed prospector turns down partnerships with others by telling them he has ‘never earned a nickel from another man’s sweat.’ The loner stumbles alone relentlessly through the snowy wilderness searching for gold, even during blizzards, and shows no emotion at those who fail and those who commit suicide. Jack, through the supernatural workings of a fortune-teller (Helena Kalianiotes), “rapes the Earth” and uncovers a giant gold nugget, which makes him the wealthiest man in the world.
Jack in the 1930s builds his fancy house, Eureka, on an island he owns in the Caribbean. But there’s an empty feeling, as Jack feels his life has lost meaning without something to search for. Jack lives for the next 20 years as a recluse on the isolated island, and spends his days fearful someone will steal his money. He lives with his lush wife Helen (Jane Lapotaire), his coddled daughter Tracy (Russell), with whom he has a devouring near incestuous relationship, and his scheming playboy son-in-law, European aristocrat Claude (Hauer). Tracy’s folks both hate Claude, considering him a fortune hunter and bar him from their home.
The third act deals with Miami businessman/gangster, Mayakovsky (Joe Pesci), an unscrupulous thug who speaks Yiddish. Mayakovsky wants to build a gambling resort on McCann’s island and turns violent when refused. It results in the brutal be-heading of Jack in his bedroom by Mayakovsky’s goons and the trial of Claude, accused of the murder.
Eureka, in its own convoluted way, tells us that money can’t buy us happiness–that when we are ruled by our possessions, this causes our souls to be lost. Von Stroheim’s Greed (1923) covered the same theme, and gave us a possibly even more interesting ironical moral denouement.
REVIEWED ON 8/2/2009 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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