Cinema Station

Picture of the Week: Light Sleeper | April 3, 2012

Picture of the Week

This is a new series that we are inaugurating on a continuing basis here at Cinema Station… Now there are other movie blogs that already feature a recommended Movie of the Week so what makes us different?  Or are we just imitating something that has already been done? Hopefully not. We’re going to be different because the titles we select will not be from the generally accepted canon of worthwhile or critically acclaimed films. In other words our selections will not have any discernible pedigree of any kind. They are the runts of the litter, the orphans, the rude children that just won’t behave or conform, the mavericks and the outlaws.   So they will mostly be small, offbeat and often low budget works that caught our fancy or captivated our attention for one reason or another.  A different way of putting it is to say that these are films that got made, released but somehow slipped through the cracks somewhere along the way and now reside in the dark abyss of obscurity. But it doesn’t have to be that way forever. At least not here in the universe of Cinema Station. So hang with us, maybe you’ll find a gem or two among them.

Light Sleeper

Willem Dafoe plays a drug dealer. He works for Susan Sarandon who is trying to make her break from the business and start a cosmetics company. He’s in love with a woman (Dana Delaney) who has broken away from drug lifestyle completely and though Dafoe is sober, she wants nothing to do with him. And he feels like someone wants to kill him.

Light Sleeper is the kind of thriller common to the late 80s and early 90s. Slick, moody, filled with dark rainy streets, it feels like an old Michael Mann movie. But it was directed by Paul Schrader, who beyond writing some good screenplays which Scorsese turned into great films, has a list of misfires to his name. But Light Sleeper is dead on.

It is a dreadful trip through the “high class” drug underworld. Dafoe’s character isn’t a saint, but he’s trying to do good in his own way and find love, but no matter his intentions the world seems to be closing around him. Schrader’s themes are firing in all the right directions and his cast is placed in perfect unison, especially the two women. Delaney, as the recovering, addict is the symbol of innocence and salvation for Dafoe, yet she’s sexy and elusive. Sarandon, whose performance did not work for me up front, grows into the picture and her work at the end steals the scenes.

But it’s Dafoe who really shines. His inner monologue as he sleeps on a mattress spread out on the floor of his loft, his lonely rides around the city looking for a recognizable face, and his helplessness as he realizes he doesn’t know who to trust.

A terrific thriller with some Noir elements, Light Sleeper is my underrated film pick of the week.

-Travis Mills


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