I remember being bowled over by Eureka in 1983. There was the fascinating true-life story behind it - the prospector who struck gold in the Twenties and became a melancholy semi-recluse until his violent murder in the Bahamas 20 years later. There were the elegant echoes, thematic and visual, of Citizen Kane in the story of a man consumed by his own success. There were the fierce performances by a blue-riband cast including Gene Hackman as the man who 'had it all and ended up just owning everything', and Joe Pesci, Mickey Rourke and Rutger Hauer as his collective nemesis. Most of all, there was Nicolas Roeg's coruscating direction, full of visual fireworks and passionate perversity. Re-viewed this week on a video as hard to come by as gold dust, it still seemed highly impressive.
Since Eureka was released, Nicolas Roeg's reputation has dwindled away into disappointments like The Witches and Castaway. But at the time he was on a roll after some of the most exciting films of the Seventies - Performance (which is, incidentally, being revived next month), The Man Who Fell to Earth, Walkabout, Don't Look Now, Bad Timing. Even Eureka's severest critics recognised it as a very interesting movie. So its skimpy release and abrupt, unexplained disappearance (see below) were all the more surprising.
Explanations vary. Some reckon it was the ructions at MGM, where David Begelman, who had presided over the film, exited brusquely in a flurry of financial chicanery. According to the writer, Paul Mayersberg, 'the American Dream is one in which endeavour finally pays off. Here was a story in which victory turned into disaster.' Roeg reckons it was bad timing - a film about fool's gold which came out on the eve of the New Materialism of the Eighties. 'I absolutely believe there were political motives behind it,' said the producer Jeremy Thomas this week.
What the critics said: 'The picture has a curiously abstract quality. Its ideas are inadequately embodied . . . That having been said, Eureka is a film that anyone interested in the cinema will want to see at least once.' Philip French.
'A complicated but amazing movie . . . No film-maker today prospects so intrepidly for the truth about human relationships and the grisly desires and fears that underpin them or well up after consummation.' Nigel Andrews.
Availability: Given small release in May 1983; vanished after six weeks. In Sept 1983, all prints reportedly withdrawn by the distributor for 'reassessment' in Hollywood. In April 1984, suddenly withdrawn from release on video. Shown on the BBC's Film Club in 1989. Now unavailable on video or 35mm. The BFI distributes a 16mm print.
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