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Wild Side (1995, Christopher Walken, Anne Heche)

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For those unsure of the power of editing, compare the two versions of this dark erotic tale. The first was an ill-timed, incoherent skinflick which Cammell disowned prior to committing suicide. Four years later the footage was reworked by faithful editor Frank Mazzola (funded by Tartan Metro and FilmFour) as a muted masterpiece and released as the director’s cut.

In ’90s Los Angeles, bank worker Alex Lee (Anne Heche) boosts her income with an evening job as a call girl. One of her clients is Bruno Buckingham (Christopher Walken) a career hoodlum whose chauffeur Tony (Steven Baeur) rapes her before unmasking himself as a undercover cop and ordering her compliance in the plan to bring down his ‘boss’.

But Bruno wants Virginia for his own aim: to help launder millions of dollars from the account of his girlfriend Virginia (Joan Chen), The account is held at Alex’s bank, and after she meets Victoria the two women begin an affair. Trying to keep her duplicity secret from Bruno, Tony and Virginia, Alex becomes increasingly desperate, and ever more vulnerable‚Ķ

Mazzola – in partnership with writer China Kong – set about restoring Cammell’s reputation by reinstating the original narrative and commissioning a new score from Ryuichi Sakamoto. The thriller that emerges is every part as adult as the ‘original’ but with the benefit of structure and tone, the labyrinthine plot is rendered lucid and the actors vindicated.

A characteristically gutsy Walken rages his way through, with Heche a willing partner (although she is unlikely to be offered roles this visceral for some time to come) and Bauer the unexpectedly repellent and unsettling scene-stealer, raising expectations for his performance in Steven Soderbergh’s hotly-tipped ensemble thriller Traffic.

‘I can only say that in Wild Side a cult classic has been born’, claimed The Guardian , joining in welcoming the restoration of Donald Cammell’s reputation as a British visionary whose quartet of movies (which include Performance ) will influence film-makers and audiences for decades ahead.

production details
USA | 111 minutes | 1995

Director: Donald Cammell
Script: Donald Cammell, China Kong,

cast
Christopher Walken as Bruno Buckingham
Anne Heche as Alex Lee / Johanna
Joan Chen as Virginia Chow
Steven Bauer as Tony
Allen Garfield as Dan Rackman
Adam Novak as Lyle Litvak
Richard Palmer as Hiro Sakamoto
Randy Crowder as Federal Agent
Marcus Aurelius as Agent James Reed
Michael Rose as Agent Morse Jaeger
Lewis Arquette as The Chief
Rolando De La Maza as Steward
Candace Kita as Lotus Ita (as Candace Camille Bender)
Ian Johnson as Philip Hamlyn
Gena Kim as Massage Girl
Robert Mazzola as Gilberto