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Woman Chaser, The
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by iF Magazine

"A movie that doesn't have much to say, and is pretty weak company."
3 stars

The adage about glass houses cannot be exactly applied to independent films. After all, if no one made low-budget films about low-budget filmmaking, the world would lack delirious little gems like LIVING IN OBLIVION and STRANGER'S KISS. However, there's a lot of danger inherent in this type of self-referential material, and THE WOMAN CHASER places itself straight in harm's way.

Director/scenarist Robinson Devor, adapting Charles Willeford's novel, perfectly captures the look and feel of economic '40s/'50s film noir, overlaid with a beat sensibility from the early '60s (when CHASER is set). Our narrator Richard Hudson (Patrick Warburton) returns to Los Angeles from San Francisco, determined to become rich. "Isn't making money the reason for existence?" he asks us rhetorically.

Oblivious to his Oedipal fixation on his mother (Lynette Bennett) and the inappropriateness of his dealings with his young stepsister (Marilyn Rising), Richard has success managing a used car lot with tyrannical tactics, but his life feels strangely empty. Deciding that he's truly a creative soul, he bullies his stepfather (Paul Malevitz), a now-broke but formerly famous film director, into producing a grim, existential drama about a trucker involved in a hit-and-run accident that Richard will write and direct. At first, all goes surprisingly well, but Richard is incapable of compromise - as well as being fairly unbalanced.

Devor's technique is both stylized and stylish, with some sharp, deadpan flourishes. The black-and-white cinematography by Kramer Morgenthau is rich and wonderfully time-specific, although the sound mix at times seems to be struggling to strike the right balance between dialogue and ambience. Warburton is just right for the role, striking a tough, icy stance with an ironic undercurrent of subconscious confusion, defining a man operating with total surface confidence and a complete lack of self-awareness. Film newcomer Malevitz does an excellent job as the nervous stepfather.

It's hard to tell if the film's title is meant seriously or not. Although Devor depicts Richard's sexual dysfunction in a variety of ways, it never feels organically connected to his need for professional control over other men. The latter is a far more dominant theme in the film than the former. Perhaps the link between the two is meant to be subtle; instead, it's merely vague and unpersuasive. There are a few moments of good satire - Richard's discovery of his leading man is fairly memorable - but too often, we're invited to simply feel superior to the main character. Richard's kinks are repellent and his profound state of denial is impressive in its scope, but they don't lead to either novel insights or genuine absurdism. Once we've admired Warburton's skill in depicting Richard's contradictory layers, we are provided no further sense of revelation.

As for the plot mechanics, there are some things - bank robberies, for example - that are far more enjoyable on screen than in real life. However, listening to a self-absorbed, pretentious auteur drone on about a single sequence that sounds like a dubious basis for an entire feature and then hearing him complain about how his artistic integrity is being compromised is generally not much fun either in reality or in the movies. This, unfortunately, is the predominant experience one gets from watching THE WOMAN CHASER. It's skillfully made, but it doesn't have much new to say and it's not good company.-- Abbie Bernstein

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=4952&reviewer=119
originally posted: 02/23/01 16:21:32
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4/25/17 Tex Wilson underrated film 4 stars
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