A remake of the 1962 thriller with Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum; Scorsese directed it for Universal Studios -they say it was part of a deal: he would finally be able to make his Temptation in exchange of a mainstream film. That mainstream film ended up being Cape Fear, after Scorsese traded projects with Steven Spielberg. Surprising enough, Scorsese was originally planning to direct Schindler's List. Who knows how film history would have changed, if things didn't go this way.
Cape Fear is a real toponym of a headland in North Carolina. I would say it's used more or less metaphorically here, although the Boyden family end up there, where the resolution of the merciless pursuit by the ex-convict would take place.
At its peak time, it was advertised with the following phrase: "See Cape Fear - with someone you want to hold on to...tight". As much as these catchy ad-phrases used as bait for the audience are usually overrated, let me tell you, this one is definitely keeps its word. At least for me; it gave me some tremor and insomnia to say the least.
Several elements to mention here. Where should I start? From the striking Lynch-esque scene, where Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange make love, then she is out of bed applying pink lipstick, then the image gets black and white, then negative and in the meantime we start freaking out a bit? Or from the tattooed body and once more despisable character of Robert De Niro? This guy, how can he always be so deep in the skin of his roles? He scares the shit out of me. It takes great directing, naturally, to achieve that, as well as great dedication. Then, we also have Juliette Lewis; she was still an innocent (sic) teen back then, but she deserves my respect after seeing what she did here. Maybe this is closer she got to a breath-taking performance, that earned her an Oscar nomination. Thanks God that Reese Witherspoon and Drew Barrymore messed up in the audition and didn't get the role. I can hardly imagine anyone else fitting better for it.
Bernard Herrmann is one more asset of the movie. His intriguing music score helped the film a lot suspense-wise. Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck, who held main roles in the first adaptation of the film, have also some screen-time here, but they change sides now. They swap, so to say and are in good with the law now. The film grossed an unbelievable amount of 180 million dollars, but even if it started off as a mainstream project, in the hands of Scorsese it couldn't stay that way. Two Oscar nominations, shivers on your spine -hold your breath- the revelation of a new talent and a music score to give you nightmares at night. This is what auterism does to mediocre projects. That's why we love auterism.
AGENDA: Cape Fear, 21/3/12, 20.30, Cinematheque Luxembourg, More Info