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In the strange concrete jungle of Manhattan, where romantic Darwinism dictates that the beautiful people attract their own kind, what happens when an Adonis pairs up with a dowdy loser? Hal Salwen's comedy Duane Incarnate probes that question. Gwen, Connie, and Fran are three women living in New York with good careers and, even better, good bordering on near-perfect relationships. And then there is Wanda, the black sheep of the group -- unemployed, unattached, unstylish, and pretty much un-fun. But one day at their favorite watering hole, Wanda divulges that she is in love with the perfect man, Duane. The others immediately wonder if Duane really exists. Tired of the constant nagging, Wanda agrees to have Duane meet her friends -- and their jaws hit the floor when they see the perfect man with their own eyes. He's not just sexy, either. He likes to give rather than receive in bed, is a terrific dancer, is sensitive, and has a good job. Suddenly his perfect existence calls into question the catty friends' near-perfect lives. This smart comedy features an ensemble cast of women who light up the screen, bolstering Salwen's sharp writing and magical realist story to another level.
Director's Statement Collapse
The history of Hollywood comedy includes a particular genre of film that I'd call the Schlemiel-Meets-Unbelievable-Woman-Genre. The Ultimate Movie Thesaurus categorizes these titles in a section entitled "Nerds & Babes" (defined as "Shy awkward men with beautiful women"). The section includes Ten with Dudley Moore, several Woody Allen films, The Woman in Red, The Owl and the Pussycat, Roxanne, The Seven Year Itch, and more than 50 others. In addition, the reference book, which was published in 1996, misses many films that clearly fit the bill, in particular a slew of teen comedies epitomized by the '80s hit Weird Science. What piqued my interest, however, was that in an apparent effort at equal time there's a sparsely filled section entitled "Wallflowers & Hunks" that purports to be the situation in gender reverse. Not withstanding the very short list of logical entries such as Sugarbabies and Polyester, the category desperately attempts to fill itself out with the inclusion of such inexplicable titles as Alice in Wonderland. As I pondered the section further, it occurred to me that practically all the situations in the "Wallflowers & Hunks" category were of the disingenuous-gorgeous-guy-toying-with-the-fragile-affections-of-the-poor-homely-girl variety, while in the "Nerds & Babes" category, the lovely and desirable females were generally real prizes who were mostly pure and sincere. If anything, the loser-guys simply couldn't believe their luck, while the Plain Janes in the "Wallflowers & Hunks" category--such as in Dogfight and The Heiress--were, by and large, being shamelessly used and abused for one reason or another. And then I noticed something even more exceptional: The majority of films in "Wallflowers & Hunks" weren't comedies but dramas, while the opposite was true of the "Nerds & Babes" section. Suddenly, a chorus of Helen Reddy angels was resounding in my ears! Something, I decided, had to be done to right this wrong! Well, okay, not really. Full disclosure: an early version of Duane Incarnate had the genders reversed. Which is to say, it was my original intention to contribute one more title to the "Nerds & Babes" category. I'd come up with this idea that I couldn't shake: What if this loser guy met this unbelievable woman and his friends decided that it just wasn't possible--that it was impossible-- and that therefore the woman didn't exist, raising a number of questions such as "But then why can we see her?" Which eventually, after opening my Movie Thesaurus, turned into "But then why can we see him?" Flash forward a few years later and here we are. Anyway, to continue with full disclosure, I would be less than sincere if I was to characterize my intentions as social activism. No, it just seemed to me that there had been reasons why certain categories had evolved and filled out, while others hadn't, but that the culture was changing and that anyway there was more fun to be had by wading into less explored territory. I think the film bears me out.
Film Information Collapse
[DUANE] | 2004 | 88 | Narrative Feature
Foreign Title: (Duane Incarnate)
About the Director(s)Collapse
Hal Salwen wrote and directed the critically acclaimed Denise Calls Up (1995), which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, winning a prestigious Mention spéciale Caméra d'or competition. The film won other numerous prizes, including the Prix du Jury Spécial at the Deauville Film Festival, Best Young Film at the Valladolid International Film Festival in Spain, and both the Audience Jury and Critics' Awards at Fantasporto -- the Festival Internacional de Cinema do Porto. His second feature, His & Hers (1997), premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and that same year, Daily Variety named Salwen one of "The Top 10 Filmmakers To Watch." His other writing credits include Showtime's Deadly Surveillance (1991) and Probable Cause (1994), as well as uncredited work (alongside Academy Award®-nominated screenwriter, Daniel Petrie Jr.) on Eddie (1996). Recently, Salwen has been developing Mars Needs Women, for HBO and producer Debra Hill, and the follow-up to Denise Calls Back.