Best Rivals

Heartbreakers At the Nickelodeon

HEARTBREAKERS IS A SMART, intriguing film about men male ambition, last, fantasy and love--projected onto the widescreen of male friendship. Writer-director Bobby Roth explores the treacherous every man's zone between comradeship and rivals in the lifelong friendship of roughish artist. Arthur Blue (Peter Coyote) and staid businessman Eli Kahn (Nick Mancuso). Unfortunately for Roth's thirty-five year old heroes, three women keep coming between Blue and Eli, tangling up the friends' good intentions and bringing out their competitive worst.

Although Roth deliberately focuses on male relationships, his incidental portrayal of women is suspicious. Cyd (Kathryn Harold), Blue's five-year live-in who abandons him for another painter; Candy (the late Carole Wayne), the voluptuous "submissive" S & M model for Blue's Fiorucci-style erotic paintings, and Liliane (Carole Laure), Eli's "ideal" woman, who works in a chic Los Angeles art gallery, are shown with such a distrustful distance that we never get far past their appearances. These characters are flat, like blank canvasses on which Blue and Eli project their own dreams and anxieties.

The only feminist peep in this otherwise courageous film comes from Filiance who casually whispers to the gallery owner that Blue's painting "objectify women." Blue laughs it off: "It's called art. I'm a fetishist with style." He's also a fetishist who has been dumped, with good reason, by the women he loves. There are two kinds of women in Heartbreakers: those who dance seductively for Blue and Eli, and those who won't. As willing and unwilling participants in Blue's and Eli's sexual and emotional obsessions, these women serve as catalysts for male action or else they just get in the way.

Sexual politics belong more to Blue and Eli than director Roth. To be fair, women aren't the only characters in Heartbrakers that get superficial treatment: everyone does, because the script is thin and the dialogue occasionally strained. But Roth is a very talented visual director, and once the characters have been introduced in the crupric first half hour, the atmosphere and psychological action are compelling.

Roth seemingly picks up his story in the middle, after the dynamics of most of these relationships have been established, and doesn't bother with exposition so we have no idea where all these unleashed passions are coming from. Cyd leaves Blue, Eli's father business is in trouble, Eli's father dies, Blue gets a gallery opening for his work. Blue kisses a strange woman on the street. Blue intrudes on Eli and a woman in bed so they decide to get a hamburger at Fatboy's, Eli burns Blue's shirt.

BUT THE MORI WI WATCH (there is little worth listening to) the more we know: Roth puts his audience in the voyeuristic position that Eli and Blue assume in each other's lives. As friends they feel entitled to the other's every though and their every woman Wealthy macho Eli envies Blue's mysterious romantic success with women, and struggling Blue envies Eli's material success. Eacl, lives vicariously through the other and so neither is fully satisfied with himself. This complicated mixture of love and jealously, hate and loyalty, repeatedly erupts in unspoken competition for the same women. Cinematographer Michael Bauhaus transforms the neon of L.A. into feverish yellows and red that bathe the discos and hambutget stands where Eli and Blue confront themselves and each other: music by Langerine Dream and Nona Hendris lends a funks and somewhat warped surreal feeling to the goings-on.

The performances are uniformly excellent. Peter Coyote as Blue is arrogant, self centered and outrageously charming; he mysteriously draws people to him like a whirlpool. Nick Maneuso's Eli handsome and well groomed enough to be a Ken doil, and he's just as dull lot awhile, but blanketed intensity and final indignation are all the mere effective in the end Heartbreakers is updated look at Nathanael West The Day of the "dream dump," modern day Los Angeles, those who state are all dissatisfied and spend she then days and might pretending they is not.