Five years before Steven Soderbergh's "Sex, Lies and Videotape" took Sundance by storm in 1989, officially kicking off the New American Indie Wave, there were two provocative "in-between" films that, well, sadly fell through the cracks. By "in-between," I'm referring to those identity-crisis movies that are neither studio titles nor strictly independent ventures. There's something mainstream about them and yet they really aren't mainstream.
Coyote! He's Blue, the lanky, not-exactly-sensitive artist
The titles in question, both released in 1984, are Alan Rudolph's "Choose Me," which opens with Jan Kiesser's "swoony cinematography" (Pauline Kael's expression) following along with Lesley Ann Warren's sensual movements as she sashays down a noir street, and Bobby Roth's "Heartbreakers," a provocative piece about something that's seemingly impossible - namely, true friendship among men.
I'm less concerned with "Choose Me," because Rudolph went on to have something of a career (albeit in the shadow of his mentor, Robert Altman) and, therefore, his films are remembered. Well, sort of.
Roth, on the other hand, made a detour into TV and pretty much stayed there, his most impressive title being the HBO movie, "Baja Oklahoma" (1988), adapted by Dan Jenkins from his novel and starring Warren and Julia Roberts, compelling as mother and daughter. Peter Coyote, who co-starred, is also one of Roth's two male leads in "Heartbreakers."
Coyote is Blue, a lanky, overgrown boy who ostensibly works as an artist but is not commercially successful at it. He's the kind of guy who easily attracts women, but Blue stuck with one woman, someone who finally could no longer take his rampant immaturity and left. Nick Mancuso is Eli, a driven, successful businessman (he's largely in the "son" business) and experienced womanizer. Women are drawn to him, too.
These are an odd pair to be friends but this is the kind of situation where one guy fills in the blanks of the other.
Their supposed friendship is tested when a new woman - France's Carol Laure (from Bertrand Blier's "Préparez vos mouchoirs"/"Get Out Your Handkerchiefs") - comes on the scene, and both respond to her.
Roth, who made one small impressive feature prior to this ("The Boss's Son," starring Asher Brauner as a possibly autobiographical character named ... Bobby Rose), economically conveys the competitiveness between the two men in an early gym scene where they stand in front of a mirror, both shirtless, sizing up each other's chests.
The supporting cast includes Kathryn Harrold, Max Gail, George Morfogen and the invaluable Carol Wayne, excellent here. The great Michael Ballhaus did the cinematography; Tangerine Dream the music. It's troubling that this fine film remains virtually unknown.
Mancuso! He's Eli, the killer-businessman, utterly driven
Note in Passing: Roth's "Heartbreakers" is not to be confused with David Mirkin's 2001 comedy, "Heartbreakers," starring Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ray Liotta, Jason Lee and Gene Hackman.