US, 1997, 100 minutes, Colour.
Robert Forster, Amanda Plummer, David Thewlis, Fairuza Balk, Paul Sorvino, Joanna Gleason, Geoffrey Lewis, Chris Sarandon.
Directed by Paul Chart.
American Perfekt is an odd road film, written and directed by British Paul Chart.
Robert Forster plays a psychiatrist who wants time off, decides to travel across America – making all his decisions at the flip of a coin. He encounters a young woman, Sandra, who is attracted by him and travels with him – only to meet a violent end. She had intended to meet her sister, played by Fairuza Balk, and the psychiatrist meets up with her – travelling with the body of her sister in the boot of the car.
David Thewlis is a conman, Paul Sorvino the sheriff, Chris Sarandon his deputy.
The film is one of black humour as well as touches of violence and horror.
1.The title, its irony? The spelling of ‘perfekt’?
2.The film as a road movie, cars, on the road itself, strangers, travel, sex and violence, madness?
3.The American style, the British author? The psychological background – and psychopaths?
4.The California, Nevada and Utah settings? The desert, the roads? The musical score? ‘Twilight World’?
5.The structure of the film: Jake, his journey, Sandra and her going to visit Alice, Alice and her travelling with Jake? Sandra losing, Alice winning?
6.Sandra, the car, free-thinker, the diner, hemmed in, her fears, the lighter, the crash? The irony of Jake’s fear?
7.The door, Jake? His background, psychiatrist, the doctor, fixing the car, giving Sandra the lift, staying – and Willy and the encounter with him? Seeing the car, stealing? Out of petrol, the tow-truck, being saved? Going into the town?
8.Jake and his continually tossing the coin, decisions, chance? Fate? Luck, doom?
9.Jake, seemingly nice, car, manners, ability to fix cars, offering the lift, courtesy?
10.The encounter with Santini, cleaning the car, stopping, the lift, the fears, the conman – and the deputy sheriff? The confrontation with Jake, the coin, rejected? Shirley? The car and the crash? Blood, lighter, death?
11.Sandra and the effect, talking to herself, pushing the car, the thirst, fear, phoning her mother? The decision to go to her mother? To meet Alice? Dinner and the dress? Her resenting Shirley? The toilet, sex, the tongue, her either going or dying? In the trunk of the car, knocking? Her death?
12.The contrast with Alice, hitchhiking, missing Sandra, ringing her mother? Breakfast, the lift, the experience of Santini, fears, the radio and the return? The interrogation? Shirley’s role? Jake’s story and going with him?
13.Jake, her suspicions, story of the professor, killing, the tongue – and the sheriff finding it? Tossing it away? Sandra? The menace to Alice, the gun? The shovel? The pursuit, the sheriff, the ending?
14.Alice, eluding Jake, tricking him?
15.The sheriff, his character, shrewd? His assistant? His fears, the rules? The investigation? The contrast of Sammy with the gung-ho sheriff?
16.The character of Shirley, Willy, Bernie’s shop?
17.The cumulative effect of a journey with these characters, the violence, the tricks, the dangers? Alice vindicated?