Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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Venice 2007: Searchers 2.0

Alex Cox’s first feature since the 2002 “Revengers Tragedy”, “Searchers 2.0”, was screened at the Venice Film Festival, and if it did not lift our spirits high, it did not push them too low. A road movie – ah, we have had so many, some would moan – “Searchers 2.0” goes a couple of steps beyond that, though. On the face of it, it is a tale of revenge and justice, but as the reels unfold, it is apparent that there is more nostalgia and longing than mere hard feelings, ingredients to get the work into the commercial circuit. In any case, it is hardly festival material, and even at Venice it was not part of the more serious and academic Competition and Outside Competition sections.

The film opens with a beautiful sunrise in an American countryside, and as we
Actress Jaclyn Jonet blows a kiss during the photocall of the film "Searchers 2.0" in Venice
go along there are equally stunning visuals captured to mesmeric effect by Steven Fierberg. Aging Mel and Fred fancy themselves to be actors, but all that they have to their credit is a single performance as child artists in “Buffalo Bill vs. Doc Holiday”. But that sole appearance was enough for a life time, given the nasty experience on the set, where legendary screenwriter Fritz Frobisher savaged them to get them wailing for a particular scene. Mel and Fred obviously have not forgotten the pain, and years later they find a chance to avenge their humiliation when Frobisher agrees to a Q and A session at a screening of ‘Buffalo Bill vs. Doc Holiday” in Monument Valley. Mel convinces daughter Delilah to drive them there, a three-day road trip, and the long journey exposes them to one another’s idiosyncrasies. There are times when the movie is hilarious, but there are other times when the script seems to be yawning with not enough happening to keep the road run exciting. The old men’s banter about Westerns and heroes like John Ford bore Delilah, as it may some of us as well. To add to this, she forgets to bring her nerve calming medication, and suffers from an unusually severe “right-and-wrong syndrome”.

However, great visuals and peppy music spice up the story, which by itself is threadbare. The performances are even, nothing really to write home about, though sparks of ingenuity can be seen in Sy Richardson in those scenes where he is confronted by Mel and Fred. Jaclyn Jonet (as Delilah) seems largely like an embellishment that jars, and one suspects that she was put there in the first place as a relief in an all-men drama. Her characterisation is the most disappointing of the lot.

(Webposted September 8 2007)