Illuminata 1998 ***

Another entry in there “Where do Amazon find these films?’ file, Illuminata was barely released anywhere back in 1998, and is likely to find its biggest audience now that its inexplicably popped up in Prime. John Turturro directs from a play by Brandon Cole, and given that the play is about a play being staged, it’s an intensely theatrical experience. Turturro plays Tuchio, a theatre director who is struggling to finish and perform his play, with performers (Susan Sarandon, Rufus Sewell) and critics (Christopher Walken) ranged against his artistic vision. The seam of talent runs deep with Beverley D’Angelo, Ben Gazarra and Donal McCann also contributing to the gallery of exquisite caricatures. The best of the has to be Walken’s dissolute, sexually-motivated critic, on whose foibles the venture lies. Leaching after the male lead with grim enthusiasm, Bevelaqua is a grotesque subversion of any kind of morality, and a perfect pivot for a story of the madness of creativity. Admirers of Vanya on 42nd Street or Cradle That Rocked will enjoy this, a painstaking evocation of the theatre in days gone by; Tuturro’s career as a director has been occasional, but Illuminata is far better than it’s lack of recognition suggests.


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