Catchfire [1990]

Dennis Hopper directed, as well as acted in, this moody mess from 1989, which was barely seen for a couple of years until getting a boost from the rising fame of its star, Jodie Foster. Looking startlingly young, Foster plays a conceptual artist who witnesses a mob hit, thus becoming a target herself for an assassin (Hopper). But instead of killing her, Hopper's killer falls in love, demonstrating his passion by stalking her at a distance, "owning" her every move and keeping her in exile from ordinary life. The resulting isolation squeezes Foster's creative spirit, forcing her to confront doubt and self-loathing--everything that artists suffer as the price for self-expression. Deeply self-conscious, with a calculatingly meditative tone that becomes inseparable from Hopper's tenacious voyeurism (the film's most obvious commercial hook--Foster's nude scene--is almost prayerful in its pathology), Backtrack wants to be a confessional fable about the artistic process. Instead, it's a muted yet rambling confession about the sinner inside a filmmaker, which would be great if Backtrack were, say, Rear Window. But it surely isn't. --Tom Keogh

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