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Forever Mine (Paul Schrader) 1999


Paul Schrader’s Sirk-ian romance Forever Mine achieves a sort of simple brilliance early on. Alan (Joseph Fiennes), a too-cute-and-innocent-to-stay-that-way cabana boy, and Ella (Gretchen Mol), a too-hot-to-be-single dame, have been flirting on the beach for a few days, and they pull close to each other. A series of shots casts Alan’s orange skin against the blue sky and Ella’s against her pink parasol. As they move toward a hot and heavy embrace, the blue seems to be enveloped by the pink, creating a not-too-subtle visual metaphor that Sirk himself would have been proud of. It’s too bad that the rest of the visuals, while attractive, aren’t so clever. A token ironic American flag is shown here and there, and the room number at the film’s start shows up again near the end, suggesting the whole thing’s been an ironic circle, but that’s about the end of it. Worse yet, the movie doesn’t know when enough is enough, and takes expands upon Alan and Ella’s sexual relationship, showing us some unnecessary butt shots and scenes of grinding. I’m no prude when it comes to nudity, but for this sort of retro homage to work, it needs for us to think of its characters as genital-less Barbie and Ken dolls. The melodrama only becomes a problem when the actors start resembling humans. As such, the film seems straddled between kitsch and kink, and neither are fully developed enough to be satisfying.


Despite its missteps, I found the film easy to like. There’s something attractive about a film made in this day and age that’s ingenuous enough to have its lovelorn lead scrawl “Give all to love” in large letters on the wall of his fleabag motel. Although the movie is set in the 70s and 80s, the Technicolor feel of the 50s dominates. When the characters go to a disco early on, the monochromatic light seems as showoffy a demonstration of the vivid tones possible on film as anything that was produced in the studio era. Angelo Badalamenti’s excellent ever present score makes sure that no emotion goes by without a musical cue. The costumes, like all material objects in this world where capitalism has gone wrong, seem a window into the characters’ shallow souls. The ironic distance is lower than you might expect, as well. Only Ray Liotta’s corrupt District Attorney seems to question the overly flowery prose that’s spouted (“Who talks like this?” he quizzically asks), and even his character seems more an element of this world than a commentator upon it. We’ve obviously seen this sort of sort of thing before, and we’ll surely see it again (Todd Haynes has another Sirk tribute planned for later this year), but that unoriginality doesn’t keep Forever Mine from being wholly entertaining.




Jeremy Heilman