Something Wild [1961]

Jonathan Demme's sexy 1986 road comedy, a story about the liberation of a stuffed-shirt businessman (Jeff Daniels) by a free-spirited punkette (Melanie Griffith), looks better and better as the years go by. By dressing Griffith in a bowl-cut black wig and giving her character the resonant nickname Lulu, Demme establishes a clear link with G.W. Pabst's 1928 Louise Brooks melodrama Pandora's Box--except that in this case the influence of a sexual free spirit is not seen as malign or corrupting. The turning point comes when the girl's hard-edged manner is discarded along with the wig and the nickname: Lulu turns into Audrey, a touchingly vulnerable, fluffy blonde. Ray Liotta, making his first big splash as Audrey's ex-con ex-husband, a hot-wired collection of homicidal tics, personifies the menacing aspects of the "wild side" of life. The intensity of the final showdown between Daniels and Liotta startles some viewers, but it provides a needed catharsis. The film's glorious soundtrack album featuring David Byrne's peppy title track became a hit in its own right, and is still readily available. --David Chute

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