Monday, March 09, 2009

Happy Birthday, Linda Fiorentino

Happy Birthday, Linda F!! Maybe you're all too young to remember Ms. Fiorentino, but a long time ago in the early 1990s, she blew many a mind in THE LAST SEDUCTION. As Bridget, a Manhattan-drinking and Harlem-dwelling Hannibal Lechter in high heels, she robs drug money from her husband (Bill Pullman), takes their car and disappears into Benton, a small-town in upstate New York, seducing and destroying a local boy in the process. 

The cinema of the early 1990s was one of open cathartic rejection of the morality that had come in with the 1980s with the HANDMAID'S TALE-style backlash from AIDS and so forth. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS opened the door and PULP FICTION, NATURAL BORN KILLERS and GOODFELLAS all tumbled afterwards: whacking, killing, and smoting with furious anger all who came in their path (and paving the way for the timid copycats to follow, alas). THE LAST SEDUCTION was part of that first wave, but fell between the cracks since it first came out on Showtime, so Fiorentino couldn't get nominated for an Oscar. There was some flap about it at the time, flap what's been long forgotten, except by me.

But even if she had been nominated, the older Academy members may have been frightened be her voraciousness in this role: Fiorentino plays it with enough sexual rock venom to wipe out half the Catholic Legion of Decency and (SPOLER ALERT!) she wins (between this and the end of BOUND we had a small-scale early 90s coup against the code!)

Fiorentino hasn't--as of yet--had a role even close to this good in the 15 years since. Her follow-ups were JADE, which everyone was happy to watch tank since by then we hated its hairy writer Joe Eszterhas (after reading all the time in the trades about how many millions he was getting for his lousy scripts), and its orange-haired star David Caruso (who said he was "too big" for NYPD Blue). Poor Linda--and sometimes good director William Friedkin--didn't have a chance. SEDUCTION's director John Dahl put her in another noir film, this one resurrecting the old FOUR FLIES ON GRAY VELVET chestnut about retinal images on dead victim's corneas. And Barry Sonnenfeld--clearly out of love for LAST SEDUCTION--cast her as a coroner/Tommy Lee's replacement at the end of MEN IN BLACK, but she didn't make it back for the sequel. That's such bullshit! Why couldn't she have been Will Smith's partner in MIB II? Nooooooo, got to dust off Tommy Lee, like he needs the exposure or the money or like it wouldn't have been a hit without him.

Fiorentino's film output's been spotty since 2000, but I don't blame her for that: it's the pictures that got small... as in small town, again, as phony morality's crept back like fungus. At least Linda never cheapened her definitive role by doing the direct-to-Blockbuster sequel. She kept her honor! And for that and other reasons, anytime we want we can pull the cork on our bottle of the resplendently chthonic sexahol that is her character in THE LAST SEDUCTION and take a deep long illicit swig. So happy birthday, Linda (and you, too, Lucy!) and the next manhattan's on me!

5 comments:

  1. Oh man, yes, The Last Seduction is excellent. It sucks that the only DVD version available in the US right now is a "full screen" one... and, even though I remember the version I saw being pretty awful, I'd love to see Friedkin's cut of Jade, also MIA on DVD.

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  2. I'm pretty sure it was filmed with full screen in mind, since it was "made for cable" - so I wouldn't worry too much about that. Generally the top and bottom of a full screen are "masked off" for theatrical release as opposed to the pan and scan of a true wide screen movie (like, say ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, or STAR WARS). A lot of smaller budget films looking to TV for their eventual profits do it this way; it really has more to do with the framing than anything else. Sometimes TCM releases an unmasked old MGM gangster film and you can see all this empty space above the actors.

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  3. Kudos on a nice piece and a great tribute. It is too bad she hasn't been able to find some more good material...maybe she's going through her bad Mickey Rourke phase and will resurrect soon enough!

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  4. "...sometimes good director William Friedkin..."

    I don't think this sentence makes any justice to his filmography. Maybe instead of it I could accept "mostly bad" and "rarely excellent", just to point the extremes.

    I think that he deserves to be called "excellent" at least two times. Do I need to say what for?

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  5. Linda is lovely woman, good looking striking beaty hair woman.

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