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Fields Study

Flick Chick


Published April 30, 2003 at 4:00 p.m.

Despite the wrinkled charisma of Mick Jagger in a lead role, The Man From Elysian Fields is far from heaven. Directed by George Hickenlooper, the improbable saga centers on a struggling Southern California writer who trades his integrity for filthy lucre. In other words, he's a typically deluded American ripe for a rude awakening. This problematic movie can be seen at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Loew Auditorium at Dartmouth College.

Byron Tiller has a first novel in the remainder bin, little money in the bank and an agent who thinks his new manuscript about migrant workers is unpublishable. If only the character, portrayed by Andy Garcia, could find comfort in his supportive family. Wife Dena (Juliana Margulies) believes in him; she's willing to scrape by on pennies until things improve.

Things get interesting when the desperate Byron agrees to work as a professional male escort for Luther Fox - played by Jagger with just the right measure of witty elan. This is a guy who radiates sympathy for the devil as he operates Elysian Fields, a service catering to lonely, wealthy, married women.

"Only women?" Byron asks warily.

"Call me old-fashioned," replies the impish Rolling Stone, sporting an oddly upswept hairdo and suits that look several sizes too big for his wiry body.

Another British rocker, Michael Des Barres, complains that one of his clients insisted he suck her toes. But Byron lands the lovely and fetish-free Andrea Allcott (Olivia Williams). She is the young bride of a Pulitzer Prize-winning author named Tobias - an amusingly flamboyant turn by the late James Coburn - whose ailments have left him impotent.

With her husband's approval, Andrea seeks carnal satisfaction devoid of any emotional baggage. Although this arrangement initially seems tolerable to Byron, the couple soon lures him into sexual and literary quicksand.

The guilt-ridden gigolo whines that he was duped into feeling safe from messy entanglements because the clients are married. Luther snaps back: "I didn't say happily. You had better learn to listen for adjectives."

Whenever Jagger or Coburn appears, the film springs to life with crackling dialogue provided by screenwriter Phillip Jayson Lasker. But Garcia gives a largely solipsistic performance. He's too languid to finesse the fiction and, consequently, Elysian Fields never quite germinates.

Anjelica Huston is the best of the babes, the customer whom Love-For-Sale Luther would like to wed. Though the mythological term "Elysian Fields" signifies paradise, this master manipulator finds his own notion of bliss rather elusive. Hey, you can't always get what you want.

"In the spring," Mark Twain once said in a speech about New England, "I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours."

But why be discouraged by the lack of a sustained warm, dry spell? The festival season is fast approa-ching! In six weeks the fourth annual Lake Placid Film Forum takes over the main drag of that little tourist Mecca in the Adirondacks. This year's event - from June 12 through 15 - will continue to celebrate serious cinephiles and the creative forces that make motion pictures possible.

Among the expected notables: wordsmiths Frank McCourt and Pete Ham-mill; actors Debra Winger, Tony Shaloub and Patricia Clarkson; directors George Romero and Campbell Scott, who is also a terrific actor; and critics Janet Maslin and Rex Reed. Producers Ben Barenholtz (Barton Fink) and Christine Vachon (Far From Heaven) will also be there.

Although the forum has experienced some recent budget woes, the highly imaginative organizers are likely to replace currency with ingenuity. One innovation, a "48-Hour Movie Mara-thon," promises non-stop projection of indie fare. The complete schedule will be announced "on/about May 7," according to a press release.

Already set are several seminars on topics such as the growing importance of soundtracks as a marketing device, the role of casting agents, the threat to free speech - playfully entitled "The Silence of the Lambs" - and popular theories about how to craft scripts. For those scribbling away in their starving-artist garrets, New York University faculty members will offer a master class on writing adaptations.

For those tap-tap-tapping away on computer keyboards in their starving-artist garrets, visit lake placid film fourm on the web for more details. The less cybersavvy can call 518-523-3456.

Meanwhile, we've had 87 and a half kinds of weather just this morning.