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Don't Come Knocking (Sous-titres français)
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Writer/Actor Sam Shepard (The Right Stuff, Black Hawk Down) And Director Wim Wenders (Buena Vista Social Club) Reunite For Their First Collaboration Since The Critically Acclaimed Paris, Texas In This Tale Of A Washed Up Hollywood Star Who Finds A Ray Of Hope When He Discovers That He Might Have A Grown-Up Child In Montana.
With Don't Come Knocking, Wim Wenders revisits territory, both literal and metaphorical, first explored in Paris, Texas. Not only does he return to the Southwest, but Sam Shepard is back as co-writer. This time, he's also the star. His Howard Spence is a movie cowboy who's had enough. One day while working in Monument Valley, he takes off his boots and hops a train to Nevada to see his mother (Eva Marie Saint, lovely as ever). Little does he know that Sutter (Tim Roth), a by-the-books bondsman, is hot on his trail. Next, Spence travels to Montana where a sad young woman named Sky (Sarah Polley) is recovering from a recent death, while an angry young man named Earl (Gabriel Mann), who sounds much like Chris Isaak, plies the troubadour trade. Spence doesn't know it yet, but they're the results of a rambunctious past that will soon "come knocking," as it were. While in Butte, he also catches up with Doreen (Jessica Lange), a lover from many moons ago. Clearly, Don't Come Knocking is Wenders and Shepard in a reflective mood, even more so than in Paris, Texas, as Spence is older and has more regrets than Harry Dean Stanton's Travis. It doesn't leave as much of an impression, but the film is a worthy addition to the post-modern Western canon. Shot by Franz Lustig, it's frames are filled with intense hues--fiery reds, glowing greens--and a plaintive score by T-Bone Burnett. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
From The New Yorker
This bittersweet Western blues, directed by Wim Wenders from a script by Sam Shepard, is a minor-key delight. Shepard plays Howard Spence, an aging star of Western films and a legendary tabloid troublemaker who wants out: he sneaks off the set and finds his mother (Eva Marie Saint, in a performance of remarkably high relief), whom he hasn't seen in more than thirty years. She lets slip a word about his son, whom he has never met, and he heads for Butte, Montana, to look for him. What Spence finds there requires some suspension of disbeliefnot just his son, Earl (Gabriel Mann), and Earl's mother (Jessica Lange) but also a daughter, Sky (the gossamer Sarah Polley), whom he had with another woman; it's as if no one in Butte around 1980 had ever heard of a paternity suit. The faith in the implausible is rewarded. Shepard's sharp writing memorably delineates the quartet's quirky struggles to connect, and though Wenders, a former master of understatement, overplays the big moments with visual frills, he keeps the outer and inner journeys in delicate balance. Despite the film's false notes, its ballad-like moods ring true.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker
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For viewers a little puzzled by this rather loosely constructed and long-winded film, the DVD commentary by Wenders is a richly informative discussion of his intentions with the film along with anecdotes about making it (scenes created on the spot, the influence of painter Edward Hopper, also the story behind the final image of the film). Wenders' explanation of how he and Shepard wrote the film together and made it over a period of five years do much to account for its somewhat rambling structure.
The performances by the seasoned actors are great, including Jessica Lange (who would have remained far more beautiful and expressive without a facelift) flying into an unexpected rage in her last scene with a stunned Shepard and actually dislocating her shoulder as she hits him with a big handbag. However, it was harder for this viewer to wax as enthusiastic as Wenders about his younger actors, who seemed often vague about who and what they were supposed to be.
Shepard's usual themes are here - about family relationships and the dislocations between fathers and their children. The theatricality of his imagination comes through in long monologues and a funeral urn as an unfortunate stage prop. But Sam himself is wonderful to watch in this his own creation, and you hang on to the end waiting for the illumination that his playwright's mind is seeking in its journey across interior and exterior landscapes.
The story is about Howard Spence (Shepard), a cowboy movie star who's approaching the downside of his aging career. At 60, Howard still lives the life of a starling; he drinks, drugs and sexes himself into oblivion nightly. But (for unknown reasons) he has a bad night on the set of a lame film and decides to flee the production in hopes of finding what lay for him beyond the camera. His history is as scattered as his drug-induced years of debauchery and Howard quickly discovers that he has children in the world. Two children. He visits his mother (Eva Marie Sant, NORTH BY NORTHWEST) in Elko, Nevada and she tells him of a woman who'd called years before claiming to be the mother of his son. At first Howard doesn't believe it, but recollections filter in and he goes in search of his kids. But he also has to evade a bounty hunter named Sutter (Tim Roth, PULP FICTION) who was hired by the film studio to get Howard back to the movie he'd abandoned.
Both of Howard's kids' are now adults living lives of their own. We're first introduced to Sky (Sarah Polley, DAWN OF THE DEAD, 2004) who just cremated her mother. She's a withdrawn and quiet woman who easily picks up on who her father is when she sees him lurking around Butte, Montana. The second adult kid is Earl (Gabriel Mann, THE BOURNE IDENTITY), a modern blues singer with a chip the size of a boulder resting on him. His mother, Doreen (Jessica Lange, ROB ROY), tries to ease the news of his father's arrival but is too late. Twenty years of fatherlessness flares, and Howard and he nearly come to blows.
As Howard tries to understand life (his own) he constantly gets knocked around. Those who carry his bloodline want nothing to do with him, indicating to Howard that he should simply return to the film set. When the bounty hunter catches up with him, it's little surprise that Howard puts up no resistance.
An alternate title for the film might've been "You Can Never Come Home" because that is its basic message. Although we're not privy to Howard's thoughts, we can assume that since he's coming to the end of his acting career and his life, he's looking for something meaningful to justify his existence. Of course, children are the ultimate justification, but when they reject you, what's left?
The color schemes and filming are visually stunning, but certain scene-to-scene edits were herky-jerky and some embittered relationships felt forced (most notably that of Howard and his son, Earl). Jessica Lange was flawless, though. She's such a fantastic actress. Sam Shepard did an "okay" job with an interesting script but I felt little (if any) emotional weight from his character.
A big problem with the film was that, on one definitive level, it's a Hollywood flick about Hollywood people. The self-importance of actors and actresses has never appealed to me and this might bother quite a few viewers. But tying it in with those of a shattered family dynamic made the movie easier to swallow.
Still, this is an interesting indie film that surpasses some of the trite junk currently gracing the silver screen.
It's been a strage year for movies. I've found many times I'm on the outside of public opinion. I actually liked "All the King's Men" and I even liked "The Black Dahlia". I'm just not influenced by public opinion. I like what I like and the masses aren't going to change my mind.
"Don't Come Knocking" is the kind of film I love to watch. It's a self-discovery road picture. Going back to Ingmar Bergman's "Wild Strawberries", "The Browning Version" and even the more recent "About Schmidt" these kinds of films appeal to me.
The reason is because I find the topic universal. We all have regrets in our lives. We all wish at times that we can go back in time and rectify past situations. Now with some wisdom on our side perhaps we would respond to problems differently.
In "Don't Come Knocking" Howard Spence (Sam Shepard) is going through such a moment in his life. He was once a famous actor in westerns who is now a washed up has-been who gets by on memories of the past.
While on the set of his lastest film, a truly corny cliche western film, where characters kiss and then ride off into the sunset (!), Howard decides to pick up and leave. He sneaks off the set and makes his way back home.
Howard decides to go visit his mother (Eva Marie Saint) whom he hasn't seen for thirty years. It is there he learns he has a child. From who he doesn't know. How old the child is, he also doesn't know. His mother just casually blurted it out.
So from one family reunion to another Howard sets out to find the family he never knew about.
It turns out the woman was Doreen (Jessica Lange) and they had a son, Earl (Gabriel Mann). But there's also a stranger (Sarah Polley) who has come to town to find a resting place for her mother's ashes.
The film was directed by Wim Wenders and written by Sam Shepard. The two worked together on "Paris, Texas" and many see this film as a sequel. Because of that, most critics damned the movie because it wasn't "Paris, Texas".
I'm actually not very familar with Wenders' work. I've only seen "The End of Violence", "Buena Vista Social Club" and "Beyond the Clouds" (he co-directed the film with the great Antonioni). Wenders though is probably best known for the film "Wings of Desire" with was remade as "City of Angels" with Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan.
But perhaps my youth and inexperience in Wenders work is what saved me. I can't compare the film to his others. I didn't walk in with high expectations. I let the story move at its own pace and carry me along. Because of this the film managed to catch me off guard and really speak to me. It's one of the best films of 2006 and no one saw it.
Bottom-line: This Wim Wenders film is one of the best of the year! A wonderful journey look at how if we are given a second chance in life we can correct our mistakes.
Howard was a putz - probably not unsimilar to many Hollywood actors young and old. Did you expect him to become enlightened by the end of the film? He stayed in character though he tried, squeezing Sky's hand gently. His children reaped the rewards when they came to terms with his shortcomings finding themselves in the process.
More people need to see this film.
Directed by Wim Wenders, Don't Come Knocking is Largely set in Montana, and the scenery is absolutely stunning. Often occupying more than half the screen, the sky is like a character in the movie, which has a bright, distinct and totally vibrant look and ends up being the most interesting character in the film.
The movie stars Sam Shepard as a washed-up aging movie star Howard Spence. We first meet him just as he's disappeared from the set of a western in which he is starring. A 60-year-old drug- and alcohol-abusing playboy, Howard heads for home in Elko, Nev., a place he hasn't been in 30 years. We aren't quite sure why he's going there, we can only assume that he's having some kind of mid-life crisis.
Of course, the film is left in turmoil, but Howard doesn't care, he's like a little boy who is off exploring and he's oblivious to the chaos that he's causing. A no-nonsense representative of the bond company who is insuring the movie Sutter (Tim Roth) swoops in by helicopter and begins tracking the badly behaved cowboy.
While in Elko, Howard's reunion with his elderly mother (Eva Marie Saint) is cut short by the revelation that he has a twenty something son from a one night stand on a film shoot in Butte, Montana, so off Howard goes, to reconnect with his past. Meanwhile, a young woman named Sky (Sarah Polley) arrives in Butte carrying an urn with her recently deceased mother's ashes. Howard and Sky intersect at the restaurant run by Howard's old flame, Doreen (Jessica Lange) who is rather amused that Howard has turned up after all these years.
At a nightclub he points out his son (Gabriel Mann), who has turned into a sort of moody musician Goth, and he's is not eager to embrace his new-found father. By far the most interesting person in the film is Doreen and kudos must go to Lange - who I still think is America's greatest living screen actress - as she brings Doreen's mixture of wistfulness and naughty giggling to life.
Don't Come Knocking suffers from being a bit in love with itself. True, the visual impact of the film is unarguable and the deserted streets of Butte look both stunning and haunted - nicely rendered by cinematographer Franz Lustig - deeply reflecting Wenders' own penchant for an American West etched with loneliness.
But the movie trundles along, almost grinding to a halt in the second act where it becomes mired in the mud of disconcerted family business, and the resolution is quite predicable. It's as though the story is desperately trying to work up enough momentum to go somewhere, but the film just never seems to budge.
Still, it's refreshing to see the talented Sam Shepard acting again - and playing a leading man, even though the character is a bit of a selfish oaf. And it's also a treat to see him acting with Lange, his wife. For Howard, life as a movie star has been one of irresponsibility and fun; fatherhood has been a mystery and when he confronts its reality, he is just as dumbstruck as he ever was.
It's far easier for the western loner to skip town and never look back, and Shepard does a fine job of bringing this almost childlike man to life with all his dysfunctions and insecurities, just an ordinary American man just yearning to connect. It's just a pity that Wenders couldn't find a way to tell Howard's story a bit more lucidly and with less pretentiousness. Mike Leonard August 06.
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