Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Body Heat (1981)

Though I know it impolite or even near-heretical to bag on LA Confidential, as a noir it always struck me as too soft-hearted. For all of its technical merits --and, my but that picture is intoxicating to look at-- the demands of the genre seem to require a bleaker worldview than its happy-ending and femme nonfatale could provide. My preferred modern color noir revival (post-Chinatown) is not this 1997 Best Picture nominee. I'll take the jet black heart of Lawrence Kasdan's Double Indemnity riff, Body Heat (1981) instead.

For uninitiated younger viewers who know Kathleen Turner only from her thicker days on Broadway and supporting roles in films like The Virgin Suicides or William Hurt from tiny supporting bits in The Village or A History of Violence, Kasdan's unrepentantly dark thriller will be a complete jaw-dropper. Both stars were major sex symbols of the 80s and that's largely due to their erotic potency in this fine film. It's not even a hyperbolic stretch to call their mashup one of the hottest pairings the cinema ever witnessed.

But even if their sexual chemistry weren't as legendary as it is the film is strong. The dialogue snaps and crackles. It even alarms with its blunt near-pornographic invitation. The screenplay too is well calibrated to deliver twists and turns aplenty. The tech contributions help you feel the heat with air-conditioners on the fritz and temperatures / libidos blazing. Finally, the actors really sell it. You'll see famous faces from Ted Danson to Mickey Rourke in the background. But it is Kathleen Turner, in one of the most confident film debuts of all time, who steals the movie. This is a performer to reckon with. It's easy while watching Body Heat to be transported back to a time, not so long ago, when Ms. Turner was known as "the definitive female box office commodity" and compared (flatteringly!) to Stanwyck and Garbo.

Previous Editions of Classic Movie of the Week : (for those just joining us) Coming Home (1978), Apocalypse Now (1979), The Women (1939), and They Shoot Horses Don't They? (1969). Previous Turner-Enthusiastic Post: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf on Broadway.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a great film and as "Cheers" notes, one of the sweatiest of all time. Kathleen Turner gives one of her finest performances and what an entrance into the world of film. It's so upsetting that she only recieved one Oscar nom (for her best performance). She should have won for Body Heat. And also to think she lost out on Best Newcommer at the Golden Globes to that woman who caused THAT category to dissapear.

Anyway, great film with unbelievable chemistry between Turner and William Hurt.