Desert Hearts Screen 6 articles

Desert Hearts


Desert Hearts Poster
  • I guess you're supposed to like this 1985 movie because it strikes all the right attitudes about lesbian sex... Mercifully, when the sex scene does finally arrive, it's good, steamy stuff, but director Donna Deitch is hopelessly clunky when it comes to getting her characters to talk—and they talk, and talk, and talk. Clipping that one scene is all it would take to qualify Desert Hearts as one of those “controversial” TV movies. Viewer discretion is indeed advised, on more than one level.

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    Sight & Sound: Camille Paglia
    September 07, 2015 | October 2015 Issue (p. 30)

    Steeped in moody, classic country and western music, it conveys romantic longing and confusion with bittersweet intensity... The film has a beguilingly hypnotic atmosphere, like Shakespeare's magical green world, where things change shape and identities are transformed... With neither cynicism nor sentimentality, Desert Hearts charmingly asserts the centrality of emotion, as well as its prankish surprises.

  • It advocates risk and consciousness in tandem as the only means to overcome the cold, repressive hand of so-called normative thought.

  • “You’re just visiting the way I live,” confidently queer Cay (Patricia Charbonneau) cries out to newly lesberated Vivian (Helen Shaver) during their first romantic set-to in Donna Deitch’s swoony and sharp-witted Desert Hearts... A hotel-room seduction scene emanates as much erotic heat as the one in Carol, and the open-ended conclusion immediately calls to mind the great come-on uttered by sex-drunk Rita to Betty in Mulholland Drive: Go with me somewhere.

  • What does it mean to say a film has heart? I used that phrase when explaining why I appreciated Claude Sautet’s CLASSE TOUS RISQUE—which, contrary to critical consensus, I found to be in line with the well-meaning worldview of Sautet’s more congenial, better-known films—after seeing it for the first time at Noir City last weekend, and I applied it when mulling over the quiet firecracker that is Donna Deitch’s DESERT HEARTS. It has it in spades, both in name and spirit.

  • To understand the power of this scene, when it finally arrives after an eternity of waiting, you have to understand that most serious films by or about lesbians at the time did not even have sex scenes: they were tasteful, indirect, with French on the soundtrack, maybe a cutaway to morning . . . If Deitch was determined to deliver a visceral scene of authentic passion and desire, then in Charbonneau and Shaver, she found actors who would follow through on the promise of their characters.

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