Critique: ‘Public Access’ (1993)

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Directory of World Cinema: American Independent 1, edited by John Berra, published by Intellect Books, 2010

Bryan Singer is best known as the director of The Usual Suspects (1994), and the superhero epics X-Men (2000) and Superman Returns (2006), but his minimally-financed first film, Public Access shares one significant theme with his later work: identities are kept secret and the narrative action of uncovering that secret becomes the undoing of nearly everyone involved. Clark Kent is revealed to be Superman, Keyser Soze is shown to be Verbal Kint and Whiley Pritcher, the antagonist of Public Access, appears from nowhere, behaving like a ‘wily preacher’, teasing the secrets out of the town of Brewster until he is forced to reveal his own hidden motivations.

Public Access revolves around what is believed to be known about the citizens of Brewster, and the film is entirely successful in slowly uncovering a wider plot beyond the voyeuristic dissemination of small-town gossip-mongering. As the veil surrounding Whiley’s purpose in Brewster unfolds, Ron Marquette is outstanding in his presentation of a man who is mentally crumbling but capable of remaining suave and composed before his fawning acolytes. The film is elevated through the quality of Marquette’s performance but he is ably supported by a cast that has had little or no film-acting experience. The fresh-faced naïvety of Rachel (Dina Brooks), who sleeps with Whiley because he represents change, coupled with Burt Williams’ Bob Hodges, who embodies the ‘crazy old guy of the town’ stereotype with maximum effect, imbue the film with a bathetic charm that accentuates Whiley’s ambiguous presence…

 

The full 800 word version of this review is published in Directory of World Cinema: American Independent 1, edited by John Berra, published by Intellect Books, 2010. 

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