Film Festival, June 1, 1992. Running time: 93 min.
With: Judy Esther, Karen Rodriguez, Deborah Daubner, Jasmine Carver, Aaron Carver, Willie Boy Walker, Curtis Imrie.
SEATTLE–A resolutely independent filmmaker, Rick Schmidt has made low-budget movies for 19 years, working with non-professional actors and mainly people who play themselves. Perhaps it is this lack of acting experience that drags down “American Orpheus,” an interesting idea but one that falls curiously flat when it should be charged with emotion. It has some limited potential on the fest and specialized theatrical circuits.
Intended as a tribute to Jean Cocteau’s classic, “Orphee,” Schmidt gives the Orpheus legend a contemporary twist. In this version, the central bond–the love that extends beyond the grave–is between a single mother, Fay (Jody Esther), and her young daughter, Eury (Jasmine Carver).
They live in a small coastal Washington town, but Fay fears her ex-husband (Willie Boy Walker) will find her.
However, from the movie’s depiction of the guy, it’s hard to understand why Fay should fear him. And, in the end, they indeed appear to reconcile as a happy family unit.
The film is infused with a spiritualistic approach to life and death, a sort of mix between New Age, astrology and Herman Hesse’s “fate rules” philosophy. It could have been interesting, but the movie fails to deliver any kind of emotional punch.
Even when the young child dies and Fay is comforted by a friend, the tone is more like a speech than a heart-rending sharing of experiences.
Staging, lighting and camera are thoughtful throughout, and despite low budget, the tech credits are definitely better than the theatrical.