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Over the Edgedirected by Jonathan Kaplanwritten by Charles S. Haas and Tim Hunterstarring Matt Dillon, Vincent SpanoThe Film Comment Selects series at The Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater opened with a special screening of the cult film, Over the Edge. Inspired by real incidents, the film is about a group of disaffected teenagers in a suburban housing development who decide to take the town's adults hostage. Kaplan, the film's director, has attracted the interest of auteurist critics as a genre specialist who began by directing exploitation movies; it is perhaps ironic that he later made a couple of prestige pictures.
The one work of Kaplan's that I had seen previously, Unlawful Entry, was distinguished by a unity of style and an impressive command of the norms of classical Hollywood filmmaking; by contrast, Over the Edge, although not without its low-budget virtues, is not an especially impressive work of cinema. The strongest aspects of the film concern the portrayal of the teenagers themselves, both in the often hilarious dialogue and by virtue of a few of the performances -- including, most memorably, a charismatic debut by Dillon.The film was presented in a fine print -- reportedly a director's cut -- a notable event in a film series ostensibly consisting, with very few exceptions, almost entirely of either videos or transfers from digital-intermediates. But, an additional bonus was a post-screening Q & A with several of the film's actors, the screenwriters, the producer, and the woman who discovered Dillon cutting class in a Larchmont High School.
Hunter, one of the co-writers of Over the Edge -- who later became a noted director and who emerged out of an auteurist background -- proclaimed, "Long live Nicholas Ray!" as he disavowed any direct influence from Rebel without a Cause in the script's conception; one of the actors interestingly revealed, however, that Kaplan had told her that the red shirt of the film's protagonist was the director's homage to James Dean's character in the Ray masterpiece Rebel Without A Cause.
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