IF you have heard of this film, you may be a David Bowie fan, looking out of your window for the smallest sparkle the Starman left behind. This was, I must confess, my case. This
is not meant to be a straight-foward review but an explanation of why this film is, according to my sister and I, the worthy mascot of our blog and what it stands for. It is the film that inspired us to go on a mission that consists of praising neglected and shunned films.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the “tomatometer” is not available for the critic’s score. Furthermore, The Guardian wrote an article entitled: “The Linguini Incident: a Bowie re-release nobody needs to see” and Variety calls it an “uninspired, poverty row production”. On the contrary, even though The Linguini Incident shines with quirkiness and energy and is to me, in the heritage of endearing rom-coms that Audrey Hepburn is known for. It also made me think of a more recent movie in a similar style, with somewhat echoing characters: She’s funny That Way with Imogen Poots. We basically think that more people should watch this gem of a film. Aside from the film in itself, it is quite interesting to note that its director, Richard Shepard was 25 when he made the film, and had the guts to send David Bowie his script. I am in no way saying that Mr. Shepard is an unrecognised genius or that his script was bad and not to be seen or an excuse for the film’s low ratings. But, kudos to him. Set in a surrealist themed restaurant, Rosanna Arquette plays Lucy, a quirky aspiring escape artist. The fact that she lives in the shadow of her past achievements as a child prodigy and her grand farther’s ties to the great Houdini as his booking agent, constructs her as a sweet, loveable character. Her plans to rob the surrealist themed restaurant she works at (appropriately named Dali) are intertwined with Monte’s (David Bowie) own plans to rid himself of huge amounts of debt. Respectful of the rom-com tradition, the film begins with the leads being bitter with one another, and the movie ends with a kiss.
Enough with the plain stuff… Lets get to what we really want to talk about: why the linguini movie is the worthy mascot of our blog.
The Linguini Incident doesn’t actually have a linguini incident. I expected it to have a
scene reminiscent of the Monty Python sketch,”Mr Creosote blows up” from The Meaning of Life, where the characters are submerged in a sea of pasta. The poster suggests this as it presents the character’s faces intertwined in the linguini, recalling the detail from Klaus Voorman’s cover art for “Revolver”. Yet, there are no “tart à la crème” gags. Or in this case, “pate à la tomate” gag. The mention of linguini acts as a metaphor for the film’s haphazard story line, truffled with equally wacky characters. The poster’s design deserves a special mention. It pretty much says what the movie is on the tin: unexpected, topsy-turvy turns of events, bondage jokes related to Lucy’s escapology pursuits and it states simply, that all is not what it seems in this film.
We believe that the criticism this movie has received is not fair. Sure, the script is wonky at times but it is quotable, funny, lighthearted and brought to the screen by energetic actors. While the film follows the rom-com recipe, it ends up subverting it, hence making an original, and cringe-free movie. The movie is as strangely cosy as Lucy’s apartment, filled with Houdini memorabilia.
I don’t quite know where to start listing what we love so much about this movie, because it is a true exemple of the devil being in the detail: from the the liquid watch, being a reference to Dali, to Thomas Newman’s (American Beauty) charming and nostalgic score. Other details such as the long breadsticks, the restaurant’s eclectic style, the waitresses’ 1960s silver dresses make this movie stand out. Lucy’s escapologist 1920 costumes reminded me of Barbara Streisand’s skater costumes in Funny Girl, therefore placing the movie in the “awkward and relatable girl finds love” tradition. Moreover, the film is set in a gritty looking New York city Some of the shots are nicely composed and convey the film’s ambiance grappled between the strange dream-like, underground world in which the characters work, and a gloomier, greyer version of daylight’s reality:
If we were to analyse the first frame, I’d point out the empty fair, contrasted with the character’s childish candy floss. The film introduces Lucy’s character trough a dirty mirror. Mirrors are often used to contrast reality and fiction, therefore this enables us to see that the movie distorts reality. Just as Lucy aspires to be an escape artist, the film attemps to escape reality.
Eszter Balint as Vivian, the eccentric clothes designer, is the funny third wheel (if I may say), providing laughs as the robber or “East Village performance artist”. Other minor characters such as Jeanette (Marlee Matlin), the sassy cashier and the unexpected yet sly villains, Cecil and Dante (Buck Henry and Andre Gregory), are underlying ingredients to this linguini.
The Linguini Incident, too chthonic to be called a cult classic, is a pleasure to discover, it almost feels like one’s own (Chthonic: the word alone is chthonic). It has what I look for in rom-coms and its edge makes it satisfying to watch. This film begins our journey: praising neglected or disregarded films. To do so, we will highlight the films we consider to be cult classics in the edgy world.
The Linguini Incident, is what we want to call: a linguini movie: twisty plots, strange, full of quirks (I’m sure we’re all going to beg that the word quirk and its derivatives should no longer be used), yet like a trusted dish of linguini, we are satisfied.
Fact: the film is also known as Shag-a-rama, Austin Powers would add: “Shag-a-licious, baby”.