7 p.m. Saturday, April 14, 2017
53 Wall Street Auditorium
Presented as part of ROBERT FRANK WEEKEND along with a screening of Laura Israel's DON'T BLINK – ROBERT FRANK.
Introduction and Film Notes by Brian Meacham

Directed by Robert Frank and Rudy Wurlitzer (1987) 91 mins
Written by Rudy Wurlitzer
Produced by Low Road Productions and Xanadu Films
Starring Kevin J. O'Connor, Harris Yulin, David Johansen, Dr. John, David Margulies, Laurie Metcalf, Bulle Ogier, Leon Redbone, Joe Strummer, and Tom Waits

CANDY MOUNTAIN has an impressive, and impressively eclectic, pedigree: directed by photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank, best known for his book The Americans, and Rudy Wurlitzer, the screenwriter behind the classic TWOLANE BLACKTOP (1971), and featuring a host of musicians including Tom Waits, Leon Redbone, Dr. John, and Joe Strummer in small but glorious roles. A time capsule of a very particular 1980s, the film is every bit as wonderful, strange, and moving as this list of ingredients would suggest.

Part-time musician Julius (Kevin J. O’Connor) hits the road in search of the reclusive guitar maker Elmore Silk (Harris Yulin), hoping to make a lucrative deal with Silk and his sought-after guitars. From New York City to Nova Scotia, the film follows the hapless Julius as he tracks a trail of strange acquaintances, friends, and family of the elusive Silk along the American road of the mid-’80s.

In a 2009 conversation with Rodger Jacobs, co-director and screenwriter Wurlitzer recalls the film’s production this way: “It was a strange film from the jump, a weird, multiple Low Road co-production with a Swiss producer, a French and an American producer, all of whom didn’t get along, and then, of course, the two directors, Robert Frank...and myself, who parted company after the trauma of production. Given the hierarchy of film production, two directors always present a problem. Looking back on it, I probably should have stepped down as co-director, and actually at one point I tried to do so, as it was clear early on that there was room for only one person to walk that bridge and that was Robert.”

A music-centered road movie featuring Joe Strummer and Tom Waits naturally brings director Jim Jarmusch to mind; indeed, Jarmusch is often credited as appearing in CANDY MOUNTAIN. In a 2009 interview with Alan Licht, Jarmusch commented on his role: “Yeah, I don’t know if I even was shot, I don’t remember, I hate to say, so much was going on back then. I remember when they were filming, I was going to be in it, and then I wasn’t going to be in it, and I don’t remember if they ever filmed me. I know that Robert Frank talked to me at that time before filming about Joe, and Tom Waits, just like, what do you think, do you think I could work with them? He did ask me my opinion about working with a few different people. But I wasn’t instrumental in... I mean, Robert Frank is, to me, the godfather of so many different things.”

Thanks to its contributions by various musical artists, CANDY MOUNTAIN enjoys a complicated copyright status, and has not had an official commercial release since the days of VHS—a real shame, since this odd, dreamy, stream-of-consciousness road movie is charming, funny, and rewarding in so many ways.

DID YOU KNOW: In addition to his well-known work writing screenplays for TWO-LANE BLACKTOP and PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID, Rudy Wurlitzer also wrote two other short films for Robert Frank: KEEP BUSY 91975) and ENERGY AND HOW TO GET IT (1982), featuring appearances by William S. Burroughs and Dr. John.

Presented in the Treasures from the Yale Film Archive series with support from Paul L. Joskow '70 M.Phil., '72 Ph.D. Printed Film Notes are distributed to the audience before each Treasures screening.

Last modified: 
Monday, April 10, 2023 - 2:01pm