I don't believe I'd seen The Big Easy since it was released, before I took another look at it on New Year's Day, courtesy of BBC IPlayer. What a shock. My memory was of an atmospheric thriller, thick with the steamy sensuality of New Orleans, driven by Zydeco music, and with a crackling vibe between Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin.
I first saw the film not long after my first visit to the city, for Super Bowl XXI. That was a brief, very superficial stay, and I don't remember sensing any artificiality in the film then. Maybe it's the passing of time, or maybe it's because I've actually been to New Orleans again, for a more serious visit, but I am amazed I didn't notice the lighting, which is far more LA studio backlot than Crescent City, or the terrible accents Quaid and Ned Beatty and John Goodman and especially Charles Ludlum as the lawyer Lamar use. Now I watch Ellen Barkin and her little girl flummoxing seems incredibly artificial, almost as much as Quaid's 'singing' with the band. It plays far more like an episode of 80s serial TV, MacGyver set in NO, than say, Sea Of Love, which now I'm going to have to revisit as well.
I had forgotten a couple of small pleasures: Jim Garrison plays himself when Dennis Quaid is brought to trial, Marc Lawrence, looking very frail, plays the Godfather, Vinny The Cannon, and Solomon Burke plays Daddy Mention, the black Godfather of the town. But overall I sensed none of the atmosphere of the city, none of its outre charm, none of its steam, its sweat, or its flowery corruption. New Year's Day is probably a good time to be reminded times, not just les bontemps, change, and change things, especially us.