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D.O.A.

USA, 1988 (MIFF 1989)

Director: Rocky Morton, Annabel Jankel

Although ostensibly a remake of Rudolph Mate's 1950 film noir classic, D. O. A. has undergone major structural changes, courtesy of screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue (The Fly, Psycho III), which gives this playful update a high-tech vitality without sacrificing the potboiler punch of the original's central paradox in which an emotionally dead man finally comes to life when he realises that he is dying.

Dexter Cornell (Dennis Quaid) plays an emotionally burnt-out English college professor and blocked novelist, employed at a Texas university, who inadvertently swallows a fatal dose of slow-acting poison. With only a day or so to live, he sets out in pursuit of his own murderer.

To complicate matters he finds himself caught up in a series of murders including the suicide of one of his most outstanding students, who has written a manuscript called Out Of Whack.

The complex trial of clues leads him to an adoring freshman (Meg Ryan), his unhappy wife {Jane Kaczmarek) and icy, aloof millionaire (Charlotte Rampling).

Witty cultural and literary allusions pepper the scenario and give the campus milieu a refreshing lived-in quality as, for example, when a detective thumbing through Dexter's first novel remarks: Thematically it's a little dated, but the prose style holds up'.

The directing team of Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel, creators of Max Headroom, display an obvious interest in film as a visual, rather than narrative art. Although the opening and closing sequences are shot in stark, grainy black-and-white as an homage to classical film noir the overall visual design is 'tech noir' which the filmmakers describe as' a paranoia for modem technology'. Produced by Disney's Touchstone subsidiary, D.O.A. is a fine example of passionate, eccentric filmmaking that still manages to squeeze through Hollywood's mainstream. - (PH)

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