Monday, April 8, 2013

The Foreigner (1978)



I freely admit that the appeal of Greenwich Village’s grungy underground scene has always escaped me, even when I was peripherally acquainted with the scene during my NYU film-school days. Therefore, it’s no surprise that quasi-iconic punk-rock filmmaker Amos Poe’s black-and-white thriller The Foreigner left me cold. Featuring a plot that’s either nonsensical or trite, depending on how literally one interprets the onscreen images, the picture is marked by abysmal sound recording (many lines were dubbed, terribly, during postproduction), crappy cinematography (think garish lighting and spastic handheld camerawork), and ridiculously lifeless acting. If you can imagine a 77-minute student film shot on amateur stock and padded with drably filmed sequences of punk bands playing in dingy clubs, you’ve got an idea of why The Foreigner represents an endurance test for anyone but devoted fans of downtown hipsterism. The plot has something to do with European spy Max Menace (Eric Mitchell) spending time in New York while awaiting a rendezvous with the mysterious individual who will give him the details for his next job. Max wanders the streets, visits with strangers, endures a weird one-night stand with a chick who ties him up, and gets beaten and chased by enigmatic assailants. There’s also a random bit involving an Asian woman in a skin-tight catsuit being hired to spy on Max for reasons that are never clear (or interesting). What’s most peculliar about The Foreigner is the film’s paradoxical nature—it’s a “No Wave” exercise designed to flout the mainstream, and yet the overarching storyline is as conventional as that of a James Bond movie. Was the film meant to deconstruct popcorn cinema through unskilled emulation? Whatever, man. Perhaps the only reason The Foreigner still enjoys minor notoriety is that Blondie singer Deborah Harry—one of the most famous participants in the Greenwich Village scene of the late ’70s and early ’80s—pops up for one very brief scene. Alas, her appearance, like everything else about The Foreigner, is forgettable and pointless.

The Foreigner: SQUARE

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