Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tracks (1977)

          Iconoclastic filmmaker Henry Jaglom’s second feature, the Vietnam-vet drama Tracks, is infinitely more coherent than his previous film, the interminable A Safe Place (1971) but it suffers the same pretentious excesses as all of his films. To Jaglom’s credit, his interest in human behavior is broad and genuine, and he gives actors room to run wild with Method-style flourishes. But unfortunately for viewers, Jaglom’s stories amble from one angst-ridden episode to another while unpleasantly self-involved characters mope, scream, and whine about feelings that somehow remain mysterious even after being explained to death.
          Tracks stars Dennis Hopper, at his most gratingly unhinged, as Sgt. Jack Falen, a traumatized soldier escorting a friend’s corpse home for burial. Most of the picture takes place on a train as Falen heads toward his destination and kills time with a swinger (Dean Stockwell) who wants Falen to play wingman while he woos eligible ladies. Despite being inexpressive and moody, Falen somehow hooks up with an innocent hippie chick (Taryn Power) and a randy liberated woman (Topo Swope), which means that viewers get not one but two scenes of Hopper extending his tongue and flailing it at women’s faces in a soggy simulation of kissing.
          Between sexcapades, Falen engages in psychobabble-filled chats with assorted passengers, and he periodically succumbs to psychotic episodes in which he imagines seeing things like gang rape, which prompts him to whip out his sidearm and threaten people. When this pedestrian PTSD shtick reaches a climax, Hopper strips naked and runs through the train; a bit later, he gets off the train and climbs into a grave that he mistakes for a foxhole, at which point another freakout ensues. None of this has much impact, however, since Hopper is so creepy that it’s impossible to care what becomes of his character. Watching Tracks will make most viewers want to make tracks—away from the movie.

Tracks: LAME

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