***½/**** Image A- Sound A-
starring Peter MacNicol, Caitlin Clarke, Ralph Richardson, Chloe Salaman
screenplay by Hal Barwood & Matthew Robbins
directed by Matthew Robbins
by Walter Chaw Dragonslayer is epoch-slaying, a final salvo for the courageously nihilistic films of the Seventies that is surprisingly literal about the changing of the guard from the filmmaker-driven individualism of the American new wave to the banality of the big-budget formula mentality. Its tale is best taken in the context of the idea that an individual artist--a practitioner of arcane magics that have fallen out of favour in a contemporary environment--can still affect change even if credit of the work will ultimately be hijacked by monolithic organizations. The thread of melancholy that runs through the picture springs from the idea that what we witness is an end to dragons and wizards, the battle between apprentice and beast unfolding with a doomed resignation (something like the wild stallion wrangling in The Misfits) as compared against the neutering of the individual voice within the studio system. (Dragons and warriors, the death of Robert Evans and Francis Ford Coppola alike.) With The Empire Strikes Back and Raging Bull, Dragonslayer completes a troika of early-Eighties tales of unimaginable losses and swiftly tilting identities--pictures poised tremulously at the moment of decline and, as it happens, horribly self-aware.