Sunday, November 14, 2010

TRACKS (1977) - Henry Jaglom

Though Dennis Hopper's furloughed Vietnam vet mostly listens to old World War II propaganda ditties on his tiny transistor radio in Henry Jaglom's locomotive-bound actor's piece Tracks, the song I kept hearing in my head for the duration went more like this:

"Mental wounds still screaming / Driving me insane / I'm going off the rails on a crazy train/ I'm going off the rails on a crazy train"

The late, great Mr. Hopper is in full-on crazy mode here as a soldier tasked with the mission of transporting a dead army buddy's body to a funeral in the Northwest at war's end. The rail car setting proves a priceless opportunity for the Mad Hopper to have numerous hallucinated and/or non-hallucinated conversations with his fellow passengers, awkwardly proposition hot hippie girls in sleeper cars, attempt to ply them with the sloppiest French kisses known to man, and eventually brandish a very tiny gun.

More importantly, it's a chance for Hopper to lay the trackwork for later, better '80s batshit crazy performances like Frank Booth in Blue Velvet or Feck in River's Edge. Other than that, Tracks is a bit of a mess. At times, it's an interesting mess but always a self-indulgent one. I'd never seen a Henry Jaglom film before though they used to grow like weeds in the local Village art thatres each year when I was in film school. It's probably because I had a feeling they were kind of like this -- all improved conversations and aberrant behaviors which connect only half of the time.

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