Friday, May 27, 2016

Ellen Barkin Wakes up Dead in Madrid, or Thoughts on Siesta

Mary Lambert, who at the time was most famous for her Madonna music videos, directed her first feature film, Siesta (1987), a provocative, visually arresting, sensual and surreal thriller.  Ellen Barkin stars as Clare, a blonde American who wakes up in a Spanish airfield in a bloodstained red dress, but relax, it’s not her blood, or is it?
Clare, or as she is known in America, Clare on a Dare, a lady Evel Kneviel-style daredevil who plans to freefall into a volcano on the 4th of July weekend, but she somehow ends up in Spain.  Her disjointed and fractured story is told in flashbacks, but the scenes of her wandering the streets of Madrid in that signature red dress as she tries to piece together why she went to Spain and who she killed are what makes the movie so memorable.
Gabrielle Byrne stars as Augustine, the trapeze artist who taught Claire how to fly, with Isabella Rosellini, daughter of Hollywood Legend Ingrid Bergman, as Maria, his spoiled and jealous fiancĂ©.   Julian Sands and Jodie Foster practically steal the show as Kit and Nancy, a pair of posh British expats who may actually be Clare's guardian angels.  Disco diva Grace Jones appears as Conchita, basically playing herself; a mysterious and exotic friend of Kit’s who may be able to supply Clare with a false passport.  And if that’s not enough star power you also get Martin Sheen as Clare’s husband, Alexi Sayle from The Young Ones as a creepy stalker cab driver and a mournful soundtrack by Miles Davis.
There’s a scene towards the end where Claire walks on a tightrope, which is basically a metaphor for the entire plot and the filmmaking process.  Storytelling a delicate balance between mystery and reveal; is she or isn’t she, and Siesta succeeds in posing questions while offering the bare minimum of explanations.  The viewer is invited to interact with the film and arrive at their own conclusions, and that process all but guarantees a memorable cinematic experience.

Ellen Barkin was one of the biggest female stars of the 80’s, starring in The Big Easy (1987), Sea of Love (1989) and even a cameo in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984).  She was 33 at the time of filming and at the top of her game.  From a modern perspective it’s refreshing to see a cast in their 30’s and 40’s with nary a teenager in sight; it’s an adult movie written for adults, with no attention paid to focus groups, product placement and marketing.  Regrettably, Mary Lambert’s artistic vision did not translate into box office success or even cult movie status, but you can change that tonight by watching it.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.