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USA/France 1993
Directed by
Emir Kusturica
142 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Arizona Dream

Bosnian-Serbian director Emir Kusturica’s third feature doesn’t have the invigorating absurdity of his previous break-out film Time Of The Gypsies (1989) probably partly because it was his first in English, but even so it shares with that film a penchant for surreal gallows humour.

I know nothing of the production history but the cast is remarkably eclectic – the main roles are played Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway, Jerry Lewis, Vincent Gallo and Lili Taylor – but the combination works surprisingly well with Dunaway, a far cry from her usual roles, and Depp both engaging in the leads.

Depp plays Axel, who works in New York‘s harbour tagging fish. His uncle (Jerry Lewis) wants him to take over his Cadillac dealership in Arizona in order to continue the family business.  At the insistence of his cousin, Paul (Gallo) Axel goes to Arizona and although he is not interested in selling cars agrees to try it. Then he meets Elaine (Dunaway) and her jealous step-daughter, Grace (Taylor). Axel falls for Elaine who is obsessed with flying but Grace wants him for herself.

Scripted by Kusturica with David Atkins, Arizona Dream has an off-the-wall irreverence and “magical realist” sensibility that means that anything can happen and it probably will (my personal favourite scenes being Vincent Gallo’s reproduction of the crop-duster sequence from North by Northwest and Johnny Depp’s imitation of a chicken to Lili Taylor’s piano accordion accompaniment).

Although it doesn't have the richness of Kusturica's Yugoslavian films Arizona Dream will be a firm favourite for lovers of the off-beat. 

FYI:  The film was a financial flop, understandably so, in the U.S.  If you enjoyed it, however, search out Gallo’s Buffalo ’66 (1998)   




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