Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ishtar (Elaine May, 1987)

With Heaven's Gate currently in the grips of revisionist appraisal (to which I may soon add my own voice once my disc ships with some pre-orders next month), I thought I might use my latest Criminally Underrated piece for Spectrum Culture to address the Heaven's Gate of comedy, Elaine May's Ishtar. I have seen three of May's four features, and all of them show off such an immense comic talent that her marginalization and retirement from directing trigger a retrospective outrage. Ishtar is not as focused as either The Heartbreak Kid or Mikey and Nicky, yet its propulsion outward of all the lacerating, insular insights of those films turns the personal and social into the geopolitical, and her broad parody of Hope/Crosby pictures emerges one of the great satires of the Reagan era. Idiotically self-absorbed man-children looking to hit big in another land do not look or behavior too differently from the CIA agents who mold those other lands to US interests, and the description I saw somewhere comparing this movie to the symphony of political inanity Burn After Reading feels especially apt.

My full review is up now at Spectrum Culture.

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