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Home > Film

Review: Northfork

Dir: Michael Polish, USA/Rest of world (2003), cert PG, 94 mins

Review by Robin Ince

26 March 2004

Northfork is the third film by the Polish Brothers (whom you remember as Twin Cenobite #1 and Twin Cenobite #2 in Hellraiser: Bloodline). Their movie promises a bleakly humorous vision of a last ditch attempt to clear out the human remnants of valley about to be flooded. Sadly, however, magical realism lumbers into view and crushes all this potential with a gaggle of annoying angels.

Daryl Hannah, as one of the angels, cuts a fascinating figure in a dyed Frankie Howerd wig, and her angel is undoubtedly the least punch worthy. Indeed it is considered bad luck to punch an angel in some circles (I am told Mel Gibson frowns on it furiously).

It is also good to see Daryl Hannah in a flawed art film rather than the terrible period in the mid-90s where she was forced to appear in TV movies like The Addams Family Reunion and the pointless but fascinating remake of Rear Window with Christopher Reeve (seeing a man really suffocating, is that tantamount to snuff?)

The opening ten minutes of Northfork are beautiful: the titles with their stark black and white images of mechanical dam creation; a coffin bursting up to the water’s surface; Nick Nolte preaching in front of the sky and fields from the lectern of his backless church. Yet even then there are overly arch moments, such as the fade from a typing ribbon into the cutting of the ribbon that promises a new future for Northfork and the drowning of the old.

The Polish Brothers’ sense of humour is annoyingly punning and painfully quirky.
The eccentric angels, with their wigs, wooden hands and love of tea make the film teeter into something akin to a kitschless Tim Burton remaking Rentaghost.
Though nothing prepares you for the hideous moment where James Woods questions his son Willis with the phrase “Whatcha talking ‘bout Willis”. From this moment onwards the film seems pointlessly suffocating in a world of bathos.
Despite the presence of James Woods, Peter Coyote and Nick Nolte playing it grizzled as usual, its confused tone make it a very uneven and difficult film to enjoy.

The greatest frustration whilst sitting through this, is the waste of so much fabulous potential.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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