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SMITHEREENS

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 7, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: This cult favorite has earned a Blu-ray upgrade from the Criterion Collection, but I wasn’t a fan. Here’s my July 8, 1983 Deseret News review.

“Smithereens” is a low-budget film (about $80,000 — you can’t get much lower these days) produced independently by Susan Seidelman and is generally noted as the first American independent film to ever compete in the Cannes Film Festival.

“Smithereens” owes a lot to Seidelman’s quick-time direction and a wonderful performance by Susan Berman as the lead character, Wren. But it also is riddled with distancing effects that may tend to turn off even the intended audience.

Wren is an aimless young woman whose goal in life is to be rich and famous. The fact that she shows no talent for anything and has less ambition doesn’t sway her. We meet her as she plasters posters all over New York, pictures of herself, posing the provocative question, “Who Is This Girl?”

     

                       Susan Berman, 'Smithereens'

No one in New York really cares, except for one fairly straight-laced young fellow named Paul. Wren ignores him, of course, in favor of wild-eyed punk musician Eric. Needless to say, Eric doesn’t care for Wren but Paul does.

In and around this thin plotline, we meet all kinds of low-life types and others who are equally rude, people who would probably give members of the New York travel council, those who try to bring in tourism, heart attacks. Mostly, Wren is a spacey groupie. She doesn’t really care what rock musicians she hangs out with — she just keeps hoping for the big break, whatever that means.

“Smithereens” is a problematic film in that there’s no one here that is really very sympathetic. And a film without characters to identify with or care about is a troubled film indeed.

Though Berman invests a lot of reckless charm in Wren, she is still very much a spoiled little brat, self-obsessed and without even a remote amount of direction or conviction. By the end of the film that remains unchanged, and it’s hard to care whether she achieves her aim, whatever that may be.

     

Seidelman has captured an interesting image of New York’s underground youth, however, and she keeps the film moving at a frenetic pace, with both dialogue and whole scenes chopped up so as to imitate the frenzied style of the film’s score, provided by a New Wave group called The Feelies. (New Waver Richard Hell plays Eric, by the way, giving a sense of realism to that aspect of the film.)

Whether “Smithereens” will appeal to you is really a matter of taste. If you’re into this kind of thing, it probably will. Or if you’re looking for a film that exemplifies what can be put on the screen with a minimal budget, this one serves that purpose well.

But if you want to be entertained and introduced to characters you’ll feel for — go elsewhere.

“Smithereens” is unrated, but would no doubt get an R for profanity, and a black-and-white shot of a horror film that contains some explicit gore.