Now playing: Foxes (1980) | Bleader

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Now playing: Foxes (1980)

Posted By on 02.07.12 at 09:07 AM

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Roxploitation: Subculture on Film, the film series presented by WHPK radio and Doc Films, continues this Thursday at 9 PM with Foxes (1980). The movie’s worth checking out for its collision of musical sensibilities, featuring the first screen performance by the Runaways’ Cherie Currie and an original score by disco kingpin Giorgio Moroder (added bonus: Donna Summer recorded “On the Radio” for the soundtrack). It’s also the first feature directed by Adrian Lyne (Fatal Attraction, Jacob’s Ladder), a TV commercial veteran whose work was often maligned on first release but tends to look better with age.

Foxes anticipates some of Larry Clark’s films (Bully, Wassup Rockers) in its frank depictions of teenage sex and drug use, though Lyne’s slick, romantically lit images are a far cry from Clark’s grungy realism. Yet the film shares with Clark’s work a nonjudgmental attitude towards its juvenile delinquents. It tries to understand the troubled characters before passing judgment on them, and this brings greater weight to the tragic final act than a more moralistic approach would. The movie is also a knowing portrait of adolescent friendship, keen to the ways that misfit kids create surrogate families. Jodie Foster, 18 at the time, is astonishingly grown-up in the lead, the most responsible girl in a group of San Fernando Valley deadbeats; but there are some memorable supporting turns from Sally Kellerman (as Foster’s divorced ex-groupie mother) and Randy Quaid (as a naive yuppie who starts dating one of the girls).

The screenplay (credited to Gerald Ayres, whose other major film credit is producing Hal Ashby’s The Last Detail) reportedly went through numerous rewrites, and it's evident in the uneven tone. Some attempts at action and light comedy seem to emerge, abruptly, from different movies. But Lyne’s visual style—the amoral sunlit look he’d later take to extremes in Nine 1/2 Weeks (1986)—is confident and already fully developed, and it’s sure to be a treat on 35-millimeter.

Lyne’s seductive lighting schemes and glamorous movie star close-ups betray his background in commercials; his unflagging attention to surfaces, however, suggests an obsessive artist hiding beneath the awnings of commercial cinema. His films seem to relish the experience of looking at things: their languid pacing (derived from longer takes that call attention to the lighting of each shot) feels out-of-step with the Hollywood titillation of the last three decades. Lyne always displays curiosity with the people in his films (giving them space to talk and move naturally), even when the material is crass or subpar—which may explain why Dave Kehr described Nine 1/2 Weeks as “one of the few American movies of the 80s to take sexual matters with any degree of seriousness.” That seriousness is evident throughout Foxes, most persuasively when presenting the consequences of wasted lives.

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