sat 02/07/2022

DVD: White of the Eye | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: White of the Eye

DVD: White of the Eye

Performance director's near-masterpiece about a possible serial killer's marriage

Waiting to go off: Paul White (David Keith) takes drastic marital action

Donald Cammell made two films that were close to his intentions: Performance and this. There were only four films altogether, in almost 30 years of trying. Wild Side, studio-savaged as Demon Seed had been, was restored to something like his wishes after he shot himself in 1996, defeated.

White of the Eye is, then, the only untarnished testament to Cammell’s talent away from his Performance co-director Nic Roeg. It’s a 1986 film about a possible serial killer, Paul White (David Keith), and his wife Joan (Cathy Moriarty, pictured below). Each anonymous murder is highly stylised: a meat cleaver crashes down, and blood and wine explode across pristine white surfaces; a hand-mirror is held up so a woman can watch herself drown. Michael Mann’s Manhunter, made the same year, comes to mind in such moments. But these killings are brief, artistic side-effects of Cammell’s penetrating interest in fractures in personalities and relationships. Keith, seen here and there around this time in films such as Jack Nicholson’s The Two Jakes, makes Paul a likeable, charismatic powder-keg. Like James Fox and Mick Jagger in Performance, he never suggested there was so much in him again. Moriarty, best-remembered for Raging Bull, matches him blow for blow. Her following of a golden thread of hair in the family bathroom has a queasy, Bluebeard beauty Cammell only intermittently sustains, his grip agreeably distracted by Apache shamanism, occult ritual, eccentric characters and eye-popping, high-contrast use of colour.

Copious extras double the value of this restored, dual-format DVD/Blu-ray (a UK debut in both). An interview with cameraman Larry McConkey reveals the element of on-set chaos Cammell required. The Kevin MacDonald co-directed 1998 doc The Ultimate Performance, participated in by Cammell until his suicide, calls on a rich cast ranging from Barbara Steele to Mick Jagger to do justice to a life as exotic, sensual and rebellious as his films. An essay and commentary by his biographer and deleted scenes help complete the picture.

The killings are brief, artistic side-effects of Cammell’s interest in fractures in personality

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Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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