A man sets a small town on its ear by announcing that he plans to kill himself in this allegory that, while often touching, is too vague to have much impact.
Julian Po (Christian Slater) is a 30-year-old bookkeeper on a trip to see the sea. On vacation, he attempts to record an audio journal, but finds he doesn't know what to record. His car breaks down and he walks to a remote small town, where he takes a room. Julian immediately arouses the
suspicions of the locals, who aren't used to seeing strangers. (He is the only person at the hotel.) The next day, unable to get a ride out of town, he decides he may as well stay a few days. Suspecting he has some nefarious purpose, the townspeople finally confront him at a diner. He responds to
their badgering with the revelation that he has indeed come to the town to kill someone: himself.
The townspeople are intrigued. Over the next few days they follow him around, observing him. Individuals tell him their secrets and ask him advice; when none is forthcoming, they read meanings into his words. But Julian is most startled by a visit from a beautiful young woman named Sarah (Robin
Tunney). She claims to have seen him in a dream and says she has waited for him all her life. But, as Julian soon comes to realize, her attraction to him is morbid: she is also suicidal, and sees him as inspiration. Although he tries to change her mind, one morning after they have made love he
awakens to discover that she has gone to throw herself into a rocky ravine. Heartbroken, Julian attempts to leave, but is brought back by the townspeople, who accuse him of welshing on an agreement. Dressed in a suit made by the town tailor for his burial, Julian is led away.
Adapted from the novella La Mort de Monsieur Golouja by Serbo-Croatian writer Branimir Scepanovic, JULIAN PO is a compelling film that frustrates efforts to discern its meaning. Its allegorical intentions are clear from the vagueness of certain details and the presence of big metaphors,
particularly Julian's obsession with visiting the sea. But little else is clear: Does Julian actually plan to kill himself, or was that just something he blurted out under pressure? If so, why? What is the meaning of his last words: "All the rivers run to the sea, but the sea is not full, or so
I've been led to believe"?
Despite these frustrations, which may affect viewers in different ways, JULIAN PO is an attractive and occasionally humorous film, with a strong cast that includes Harve Presnell, Michael Parks and Zeljko Ivanek; star Christian Slater is particularly appealing as the enigmatic title character.
Though the film relies too much on music to manipulate emotional tone, it leaves an impression that is not easily shaken. (Sexual situations, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1997
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: A man sets a small town on its ear by announcing that he plans to kill himself in this allegory that, while often touching, is too vague to have much impact. Julian Po (Christian Slater) is a 30-year-old bookkeeper on a trip to see the sea. On vacation,… (more)