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Sal
USA 2011
Directed by James Franco
Running time 95 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars


James Franco’s film is a biopic of sorts of James Dean's Rebel Without A Cause co-star, Sal Mineo (the actor also appeared in and was Oscar-nominated for his role in Exodus but today no-one cares about that). It is a neatly directed low budget feature which makes very good use of its limited resources but is really too dependent on familiarity with and interest in its subject to hold much appeal in itself.

The film benefits from a winning performance by Val Lauren as Mineo in a film which is largely given over to following the events of the last day of the actor's life in February 12, 1976 when he was stabbed to death by an unknown assailant outside his LA apartment.

It is that death which informs the film as Franco keeps the camera tightly focused on his subject while an excessively foreboding thrumming soundtrack helps to keep us aware of what Mineo is not as he prepares to direct his first feature and act in an upcoming play.  There is little-to-no backstory beside a passing reference to James Dean and Franco doesn’t bother to relay any information about Mineo's minor-league post-Rebel fortunes.

Franco is clearly a big fan of the era having starred in a 2001 James Dean biopic and a 2010 Alan Ginsberg biopic, Howl, and unquestionably the film is designed for those similarly disposed (consistent with the style of the film Franco appears as the theatre director although we only see the back of his head and hear his voice).  Even then, Sal is at best a poignantly allusive footnote to the period.

Available from: Accent Film

 

 

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