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Golden Shadow Pictures presents
Hero, Lover, Fool (1996)

Isabelle: What did he say?
Paul: He said you're dead.

- Fatos Silan, Jon Jacobs

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: October 14, 2002

Stars: Jon Jacobs, Fatos Silan, Michael Kastenbaum
Other Stars: Kevin McCorkle, Cliff Morrison, Ron Jeremy, Jaime Salano, Nicole St. John, Freda Schider, Joey Krebs, Courtney Birch, Diane Gaidry Thelemaque, Janet Raine, Connie Blankenship, Monique Edwards, Richard Gaylor
Director: Joe Ritter

Manufacturer: Ritek
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, language, mature situations)
Run Time: 01h:30m:37s
Release Date: October 15, 2002
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ C+B-B+ D+

DVD Review

One of the things I find interesting about low budget films are that the shortcomings often provide an appreciation of what it takes to pull off the concise and effective stories we expect from major motion pictures. It is easy to take for granted good editing choices and great scripts, but when there are things that don't quite work as well as they are intended, it offers an insight into the decision-making process that forms the basis for building a film.

Hero, Lover Fool, directed by Joe Ritter (whose credits include the screenplay for The Toxic Avenger and numerous steadycam roles on major features such as Bram Stoker's Dracula and Starship Troopers), stars Jon Jacobs (who also wrote the script) and Michael Kastenbaum, the principles of Zero Pictures, an independent film studio dedicated to producing low budget features. The title hints at the three distinct stages of the story, which play out against the California desert. In many ways, it draws parallels to Michael Antonioni's Zabriskie Point, both in its strengths and failings.

Paul O'Lochlainn (Jacobs) is hitchhiking across America to fulfill his lifelong dream of making an independent film with a group of friends in Hollywood. His plans take a major detour when he is picked up by Isabelle (Fatos Silan), whom Paul saves from her psychopathic movie star boyfriend, Don Cross (Kastenbaum). Don has flown into an irrational, drug-induced state at the news his girlfriend is leaving him, and is threatening to kill her. Pursued into the desert when Don shows up at the motel where they had taken refuge, Paul and Isabelle find themselves attracted to each other, joining as lovers under the hot desert sun. Believing they have finally eluded Don, the pair part ways, but when Paul realizes Isabelle is not out of danger, he faces a decision that could destroy his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to further his career.

The cinematography has some wonderful moments, establishing the tone from the opening frames, as we are lured into images of the desert, a beautiful, yet empty wasteland, capturing the languid atmosphere with a haunting melancholy provided by the soundtrack. The action is underscored by a sense of each character's spiritual emptiness and longing. As lovers meet in the heat of the desert, the sensuality is tempered by a solemn resignation, with the tryst being more an inevitability than one driven by spontaneous passion or desire. While drawn together by fate, the bonds are fleeting, the outcome preordained, yet tendrils of hope remain, unrealistic in their fragility. On these levels the film succeeds, with its meandering development establishing the feel.

However, like the Antonioni film, this same protracted exposition finds Hero, Lover, Fool mired with several slow scenes, especially in the latter half, which derail the flow and stall the plot. Two of these are in cameo setups for musician Cliff Morrison (son of Doors singer Jim) and adult star Ron Jeremy. Both segments are the kind of thing that play great in an outtake reel, but don't contribute meaningfully to the narrative, introducing us to characters we won't see again. An earlier scene at a desert pool also rambles a bit, but was far more in tune with the tone set in its lead up. There are also many places where an early cut, or a judicious excising would have been warranted, especially some of the inserts. The acting for the most part is quite good, but also becomes a bit overindulgent, especially Kastenbaum's character, who is a little too over the top to be believable.

If one can overlook some of these diversions, there is an interesting story being told, but I would suggest that many will find the pace too idle for contemporary expectations. While Hero, Lover, Fool may not appeal to a mainstream crowd due to some of these excesses, it provides an interesting study for independent filmmakers.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The transfer here is a bit disappointing, though some of that is attributable to the way the film was made. There is a tendency for the image to be overly dark, with little in the way of shadow detail. The look is understandably on the soft side, with grain coming across a bit unnatural and noisy. There are several print defects, and also a number of dropouts in the tape master. Given the nature and budget of this picture, I doubt we'll see an improved version any time soon.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Stereo audio is quite good, all things considered. If there is one area where Hero, Lover, Fool holds up it is in the musical soundtrack, which has a nice ambient feel to it, with good frequency coverage and a pleasing directionality. Location dialogue is a bit problematic, occasionally distorting or hard to discern. There are a couple of quick dropouts, but otherwise this is pretty impressive for a low budget production.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
12 Other Trailer(s) featuring Lucinda's Spell, Dogstar, The Invisibles, The Wooden Gun, Pheonix Point, Hero Lover Fool, Mic and the Claw, Welcome Says the Angel, The Girl With the Hungry Eyes, The Blue Door, Rage, Prometheus Bound
1 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. The Zero Story
  2. Project Entropia commercial
Extras Review: Extras are similar to the other discs in the Zero Productions library, with motion menus and trailers for Lucinda's Spell (available in a new special edition), Dogstar, The Invisibles, The Wooden Gun, Pheonix Point, Hero Lover Fool, Mic and the Claw, Welcome Says the Angel, The Girl With the Hungry Eyes, The Blue Door, Rage, and Prometheus Bound.

The trailers (available from their own menu) play at the start of the feature, so I would recommend using the chapter menu as a starting point.

A collage of interview clips with the company principles and actors forms the 10m:30s introduction to Zero Productions and their philosophy.

A teaser for the online Project Entropia RPG rounds out the supplements.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Having seen this film several times in the past few months, I have to admit there are parts that work very well, and I especially like the soundtrack, which really gives this picture its haunting character. While it does have some serious flaws, there is something alluring about it, and it plays better after repeat viewings. This won't fit a lot of people's tastes, but those who can enjoy films that are a little rough around the edges may find this interesting.


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