Kasdan. In the early 1980’s it must have felt that Lawrence Kasdan was going to be one of the next great auteurs. Coming off of writing parts of Empire Strikes Back in 1980 and the screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981—it is no surprise Kasdan had the clout to do just about whatever he wanted for his first film. He chose to make Body Heat– one of the great debuts in cinema in the 1980’s. Body Heat is an absolutely electric film, The Big Chill in 1983 is one hell of a follow-up for a sophomore effort, and that was largely it for Kasdan though he’d go on to direct another nine films, for a total of eleven to date. Body Heat is a smoldering neo-noir love/betrayal story and The Big Heat is a reunion ensemble so there aren’t a ton of lines to draw between the two- so the strength of Kasdan’s case is the filmography here.
Best film: Body Heat. It is Double Indemnity set on a sweltering hot coastal town in Florida. Brilliant. William Hurt (all three archiveable films here for Kasdan feature Hurt) and Kathleen Turner star—making stars of them both. Mickey Rourke comes in and kills it in his two scenes. It’s an incredibly engaging and well-made movie.
total archiveable films: 3
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 0
top 100 films of the decade: 1 (Body Heat)
most overrated: Not a thing here for Kasdan. He doesn’t have a single thing listed on the TSPDT consensus top 2000.
most underrated : Body Heat. I’m not overly surprised The Big Chill doesn’t register with the consensus—I think it’s widely viewed as a generational time capsule film for baby boomers. However, I was floored to discover Body Heat isn’t anywhere to be found in the top 2000. It is very comfortably in my top 100 of the 1980’s—there’s no way I get to 750 films all-time before it. As far as neo-noir’s go, there are few better.
gem I want to spotlight : The Big Chill. It does owe a debt to Altman and especially John Sayles’ 1979 film Return of the Secaucus 7. But this story of a group of college friends reunited after the death of one of their friends is a poignant adult drama. Talented actors are all over the place here (all on the rise) from Glenn Close to Kevin Kline, Tom Berenger, William Hurt and Jeff Goldblum (Kevin Costner plays the dead friend you never see). The fantastic 1960’s Motown soundtrack doesn’t hurt either.
- It is largely all Body Heat Kasdan uses the same style as the best noir films, Venetian blind shadows, ceiling fans, shadows, and sweat—I’ve said this before with Spike’s Do the Right Thing– but when you feel hot just watching a film- a lot of care goes into the aesthetics and atmosphere from the filmmaker.
- Sharp dialogue- Kasdan’s background is in screenwriting- worked on the screenplay for Empire Strikes Back and wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Films with great titles- “Body Heat”- “The Big Chill”— I’d sign up to see those movies without knowing anything else
- Body Heat
- The Big Chill
- The Accidental Tourist
By year and grades
|1981- Body Heat|
|1983- The Big Chill||HR|
|1988- The Accidental Tourist||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives