Palace Pictures 1987
Directed by Mary Lambert
Screenplay by Patricia Louisianna Knop , from the novel by Patrice Chaplin
Cast: Ellen Barkin, Isabella Rossellini, Martin Sheen, Jodie Foster, Julian Sands, Alexy Sayle, and Grace Jones
Music by Miles Davis and Marcus Miller
The time of day when mystery and passion become one.
While she dreams of his skin against hers, the dark pools of her flow…blood red.
Awakening at the edge of an airport runway, dressed in a blood-soaked dress and suffering amnesia, Claire (Ellen Barkin), a professional stuntwoman, finds herself free-falling through a dark mystery of fractured memories and nightmarish images. Desperate to discover the mystery of her where-a-bouts and her bloodied clothes, Claire begins a journey which will deliver her into the arms of past lovers, strange new friends and unknown dangers before the shocking truth is unveiled. Filmed on location in Spain and featuring a soundtrack from the legendary Miles Davis, Siesta is a haunting thriller of oblique truths and sexual intensity that weaves towards a spellbinding climax. ~ Big Pond Movies.com
Barkin is a professional stunt woman who leaves her current lover/manager, played by Sheen, and returns to visit her former lover and trainer, Byrne, on the eve of his marriage to another woman. Her trip, marked by flashbacks and flights of seemingly paranoid fantasy, leads to the discovery of murder, but she cannot remember who, when, why, or where. The film distorts time, reality, and perception in a sometimes fascinating, sometimes frustrating psychological mystery. Attractively filmed by video director Lambert. ~MovieGoods.com
Claire: Somewhere… I don’t know where… I turned a corner and there was no turning back. Somewhere I made a mistake.
Kit: Don’t mourn it, sweet, it’s all right. The marvelous thing about making mistakes is that you can keep making them, the same ones, over and over again.
Claire: I remember coming here, and I remember nothing else.
Claire: Augustine, help me. If it wasn’t her who was killed, if it was me, why do I still feel such love?
TheLastMiles.com: How did you get to direct Siesta?
Mary Lambert: I picked up the script in Annie Lennox’s [singer in Eurythmics] dressing room. Patricia [Louisianna Knop, who also wrote the screenplay for 9 1/2 Weeks] was the writer and had sent it to Annie. At the time, I was doing a lot of music videos and hanging out a lot and having a great time in my life! I picked it up and started reading it and fell in love with it. The script is very unusual. The narrative is very emotional and very non-linear and that was what always appealed to me about music video work: the ability to fracture a narrative and leave it open for different interpretations.
TLM: Are there any particular pieces of music that stand out for you?
ML: I love the music in the love scene – that’s one of my favourites. When she [Claire] comes to the little cabin and they [Claire and Augustine] make love — that’s really my favourite piece. That’s just pictures and music and emotions.
TLM: Were you disappointed by the response to Siesta?
ML: I was hugely disappointed by the support we got from the studio –there was no support at all. It was released in New York in a theatre around Thanksgiving [late November] and it had to be out of the theatre by Christmas. There was no chance for it – it just didn’t have support. There were also problems with the producers; lawsuits, legal problems. Eventually it got a cult audience. I also think it was a little bit ahead of its time, because subsequent movies very much in that vein are regaled as breakthrough movies.
TLM: They always said Miles’s music was ahead of its time too.
Gabriel Byrne, talking about Siesta: “It’s esoteric, certainly, a kind of erotic thriller. At least, that’s what we thought we were making…”
Los Angeles Times Interview [This interview is no longer available on the Internet]
Lambert: ” ‘Siesta’ is not a genre film,” said the 35-year-old director over tea at the Hollywood Hills home of her manager and “Siesta” producer Gary Kurfirst. “Nor is it a film where you can easily see who the audience will be. It’s a film about the scary side of sex and death, and it employs a fragmented, non-sequential mode of storytelling that’s off-putting to some people.”
“But this film takes risks and it does something different, and I think there are people who are interested in seeing that.”
‘SIESTA is the kind of excitingly bad, artily experimental film that has become an endangered species, and as such it can be greeted with more warmth than would otherwise be warranted. Bad? Arty? Here is how ”Siesta” begins: with the image of Claire (Ellen Barkin) in a skimpy red dress lying motionless in a field of dead grass.
Barkin emerges relatively unharmed, however. She is an actress who is clearly drawn toward interesting scripts and is willing to take chances. “Siesta,” whatever it is, is not another sausage from the Hollywood assemby line, and to intrigue us for an hour is a worthy achievement for any movie, even if it baffles us for the next 30 minutes then finally abandons us altogether.
Sheila Benson/Los Angeles Times [This review is no longer available on the Internet]
Possibly this heavily freighted metaphysical story, which seems to view great loves and Lourdes as roughly interchangeable, would have defeated almost anyone, but another director might not have given it the great whoosh of awfulness–and collectibility–that Mary Lambert has.
ThreeWest/Zimbio [This review is no longer available on the Internet]
This film begins with a woman (Ellen Barkin) in a provocative red dress lying in an field at the end of an airport run way with a black garbage bag next to her and buzzards flying overhead. It looks as though she is sleeping. An airplane flies over and she awakens in shock and panic and the film begins. I was immediately drawn in by this. I wanted to know why she was there. It’s not a complicated film at all and certainly not particularly artistic or profound. It is simply intriguing.
There was a special screening of Siesta at the Billy Wilder Theater on August 4, 2019 as part of the UCLA Film and Television Archive Series: Spirits in the Sky: A Weekend with Mary Lambert.
Here is the Post-screening discussion with director Mary Lambert, actors Jodie Foster and Ellen Barkin, editor Glenn Morgan, moderated by April Wolfe.
Alexei Sayle, attending a film premiere in 2009
Siesta was director Mary Lambert’s first feature film. She had worked exclusively in music videos prior to this, directing Madonna in Like a Virgin and Material Girl. She directed many pop stars of the 1980’s, including Annie Lennox, Sting, Debra Harry, and others.
Madonna would have made the film, were there not so much nudity included in the script. Read more about this here, but beware of explicit imagery after the jump.
Gabriel Byrne and Ellen Barkin met while shooting Siesta and married soon after.
AllMusic.com (brief excerpts from the soundtrack are available)
This collaboration between Miles Davis and producer Marcus Miller (who, except for some cameos, plays all of the other instruments) is quite successful and a bit of a surprise since it is essentially a soundtrack to an obscure film. Dedicated to arranger Gil Evans, the music is greatly influenced by his style with Miller creating an electrified but very warm orchestra to accompany Davis’ melodic solos. This was the first of several instances in which Miles Davis, in the twilight of his life, returned to his roots. It’s worth searching for.
Visit the Wallpaper section in the Gallery for more Siesta wallpapers by Stella
Many thanks to Daniela for her wonderful screencaps and to Stephanie and Daniela for links!