It’s hard to think of another filmmaker whose career has varied as much as Alan Parker’s. His latest effort, “The Road to Wellville”, has as much in common with “Midnight Express” as Anthony Hopkins’ bridgework does with that of the late Brad Davis.
Commenting on Hopkins’ bridgework isn’t as strange as you might suspect, considering he wears an oral prosthesis throughout “Wellville” that makes him look a lot like Bugs Bunny.
Appearances, clearly, are an important part of Parker’s films. Working almost exclusively with cinematographers Peter Biziou or Michael Seresin, Parker has ensured that his films all boast a similar look.
In “Wellville,” for example, the characters and their significance tend to get lost in Parker’s re-creation of a turn-of-the-century health spa. Among the many strange images the film has to offer, the yogurt-stuffing (for want of a better description) contraption ranks among the scariest.
Yet, and this is also Parker’s imprint, all in one way or another feature something visually distinctive.
“Bugsy Malone” (1976, filmed by Biziou and Seresin) is based on an original Parker screenplay. It is, of all things, a gangster musical starring child actors (Jodie Foster is one). What to look for: a fight with Tommy guns that shoot whipped cream.
“Midnight Express” (1978, Seresin), featuring an Oscar-winning screenplay by Oliver Stone, is based on the novel about an American’s imprisonment in Turkey on drug charges. What to look for: a dreamy, erotic exercise sequence between the protagonist and a fellow prisoner.
“Fame” (1978, Seresin) tells the story of New York’s High School for Performing Arts and features both an Oscar-winning score and song. What to look for: any of the dance sequences.
“Shoot the Moon” (1980, Seresin), which involves the painful dissolution of a family, features terrific performances by Albert Finney, Diane Keaton and Peter Weller. What to look for: Finney’s destruction of the family tennis court.
“Pink Floyd: The Wall” (1982, Biziou) is Parker’s visual representation of Pink Floyd’s bestselling concept album. What to look for: virtually every frame.
“Birdy” (1984, Seresin) pairs Matthew Modine and Nicolas Cage as friends emotionally damaged by Vietnam. What to look for: a thrilling point-of-view shot from the eye of a bird.
“Angel Heart” (1987, Seresin) is another original Parker screenplay, which features Mickey Rourke as a man searching for his mysterious past. What to look for: Robert De Niro peeling a boiled egg.
“Mississippi Burning” (1988, Biziou) is Parker’s semifactual take on the 1964 murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi. What to look for: white-shrouded figures riding through the night.
“Come See the Paradise” (1990) tells Parker’s version of the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. What to look for: a Japanese child wearing a Rising Sun bandana.
“The Commitments” (1991, Gale Tattersal) is the comic musical about a Dublin soul band. What to look for: lead singer Andrew Strong belting out a Wilson Pickett tune.
xxxx What’s new to view Available this weekend: “The Road to Wellville” (Columbia TriStar), “Trapped in Paradise” (Fox). Available on Tuesday: “The War” (MCA/Universal), “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” (Columbia TriStar).