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Communion (1989)

I miss New York on screen from the late to mid eighties. The place was so gritty. Never more urban than it was then, but without the sophistication that time has dragged the city into since. Even the steam rising from the subway seemed cooler then.

This is just such an example of this period. Dubbed 'the weirdest alien movie you will ever see', Christopher Walken takes on the role of New York Times Bestselling author Whitley Streiber, adapted by the man himself from his own book that I read some five or six years before this film appeared.

The statement, whilst not being true, is almost correct. This is indeed an odd, uncomfortable, sometimes trippy/sometimes terrifying experience. Arguably, the pictures that every alien abductee has drawn since would be a picture of an alien designed from the apparent experiences of Streiber's biographical recollections. Such was the furore about the release of the book, this was a sure-fire literary explosion, and if that was Streiber's intention all along, then his plan worked outstandingly well.

So well, in fact, that half a decade or so later, this film arrived. This was believed to be akin to an autobiographical statement, reduced to less than a couple of hours in the life of a man, possibly the first man, to be recognised as having more than a magical theory about aliens visiting and interacting with humans. Who better to play the psychologically unravelling author than Walken, who had already impressed us with his interpretation of Johnny, from Stephen King's Dead Zone? He had that gaunt, hungry, focused enthusiasm, moments of sheer, determined sobriety and a gaze that could just wither the camera without seeming to to even try.

Incredulity was abundant upon the release of the book, accused of being nothing more than a science-fiction writer's imagination, marketed and timed to have the most effect, in order to propel the books' sales and the writers' profile. Again, if it was true, then it worked a treat. The story, if it was to be believed, was compelling to most and catnip to a community aching for more respect and affirmation.

The film's existence only came about because of the books' undeniable success and tries its best to stick to the original source material. Not surprising, as it was adapted by the author himself, yet it struggles in its final third to deliver enough coherence for the patience the movie asks us to provide in the course of this story's telling.

Memorable, if for no more reasons than its outlandish, psychedelic approach to a subject that no-one really has any authority upon. The lost, meandering mind that we are witness to by the conclusion is only ever going to be a disappointment for those expecting any real kind of closure. Maybe this was the intent. His belief of his abductions and the relationship he had with his abductors is as nonsensical as the idea, so it should come as no surprise that his conclusions, such as they are are no more than quiet acceptance. He has no choice.

"You're not going to let us see you, are you?"


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