Christian Slater (Bed of Roses, Broken Arrow) stars as a mysterious drifter whose life takes a fateful turn when he stops in a sleepy small town. In a place where nothing ever happens, he becomes the object of fascination for its quirky inhabitants. The men revere him, the children follow him and the women hang on to his every word.

But most significant is Sarah, played by Robin Tunney (The Craft, Encino Man), a young girl who sees the stranger as the love of which she has so long dreamed. An intense passion awakens both of them to a world neither had expected.

Rich with romance and humor, Julian Po is an incredible journey of love and discovery. A stellar suporting cast features Cherry Jones (The Heiress, Erin Brockovich), Allison Janney (The West Wing), and Harve Presnell (Fargo).

An independent feature film distributed by Fine Line and New Line International. Variety called Julian Po "a beautifully controlled fable whose profound underpinnings are buoyed by luminous comic timing." Read the whole review below. Julian Po was screened in competition at the Deauville Film Festival and was released in 75 theaters domestically in September of 1997. Julian Po also frequently screens on IFC and other cable channels, so check your local listings.

Producers who called us a couple of years ago to inquire about the theatre rights to Julian Po have apparently done what they said they were going to do and crafted a staged musical based on the film. We learned this from Broadway.com, which cites Julian Po as among the eight official selections of the 2006 Festival of New Musicals presented by the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT). The 18th annual festival was held at New World Stages on October 8 and October 9, 2006. Here is the blurb from Broadway.com:

Julian Po, book and lyrics by Andrew Barrett; music by Ira Antelis: Described as a modern-day musical myth, Julian Po begins with "The Muses," a four-piece strolling bluegrass band invoking the day a strange man mysteriously arrives in an even stranger middle-American town.

 Mention is also made on BroadwayWorld.com. Here is their blurb:

--Julian Po, book and lyrics by Andrew Barrett, music by Ira Antelis, based on the book "La mort de monsieur Golouja" by Branimir äcepanovic and the film Julian Po by Alan Wade.

The show is "a modern day musical myth. This rollicking, yet cautionary tale of Manís greatness combines the traditional musical theater form with the sounds of Americana blue-grass and mountain music. Julian Po begins with 'The Muses,' a four piece, strolling mischievous band invoking the day when a strange man mysteriously arrives in an even stranger middle-American town."

In more sobering Julian Po news, we read that the great Swedish cinematographer Sven Nykvist died recently. This is included in the Po news because Alan Wade, the director of Julian Po, had desperately wanted to hire Sven as our DP. We agreed that Sven would provide a wonderful look for the film and made arrangements to hire him. We got as far as scouting the locations in Fleishmanns, N.Y. with him. After walking around the town with us, Sven smiled and said, "I see many possibilities for pictures here." We were thrilled to have him on board. Sadly, and ironically, the executive producers were adamant that he not be our DP because of his advanced age (this all transpired in 1997). So, we parted ways with Sven without having had the benefit of ever working with him. Sven died in January 2006 at age 83.


Directed by Alan Wade

Writing credits
Based on the short story by Branimir Scepanovic: La Mort de Monsieur Golouja
Screenplay by Alan Wade

Christian Slater .... Julian Po
Robin Tunney .... Sarah
Michael Parks .... Vern
Cherry Jones .... Lucy
Frankie Faison .... Sheriff Leon
Harve Presnell .... Mayor Henry Leech
Allison Janney .... Lilah Leech

Produced by
Jon Glascoe .... Producer
Joseph Pierson .... Producer
Allan Mindel .... Executive Producer
Michael Traeger .... Executive Producer
Denise Shaw .... Executive Producer
Cecilia Kate Roque .... Co-Producer

Original Music by David Snell

Cinematography by Bernd Heinl

Film Editing by Jeffrey Wolf

Casting by Todd M. Thaler

Production Design by Stephen McCabe


Reviewed at the Deauville Film Festival


An engagingly off-kilter exploration of how a suicidal book-keeper becomes a make-shift messiah, "Julian Po" is a beautifully controlled fable whose profound underpinnings are buoyed by luminous comic timing.   Scripter-helmer Alan Wade's debut is a commercial zero but is certain to stick in the minds of those who see it; peculiar yet endearing pic marks the filmmaker as a talent to watch.

Wade adapted and expanded a 40 page novella by Yugoslavian author Branimir Scepanovic adding characters, compressing time and trading Montenegro for the Catskills, all to excellent effect.  Story has face value charm to spare, but also slyly comments on the cult of celebrity, the perils of inertia vs. the impetus to action and the ways in which the meaning and personal identity can crystallize where least expected.

Having recently purchased a cheap tape recorder that he uses for an audio diary (which serves as V.O. narration), 30-year old title character (Christian Slater) is a fairly anonymous, nondescript fellow who is on a journey to see the sea for the first time when his car breaks down.  Po ambles into a tiny, old fashioned town off the beaten track, checks into the only hotel and immediately becomes the focus of every citizenís rabid curiosity.  The wholesome but eerie locale has rarely, if ever hosted a stranger, and the residents are naturally suspicious.

Convinced that he is up to no good, the townspeople demand that the visitor reveal his intentions.  Under pressure, Po blurts put that he plans to kill himself.  This admission touches a collective nerve: Impressed by their guestís courage and starved for entertainment, the gawking locals follow his every move.  Po finds himself the recipient of constant kindness Ė and confessions.   Cornered into uttering inspiring platitudes, he becomes a catalyst for all sorts of personal momentum.

The sheriff, the barber, the haberdasher, a garage mechanic -- even an elderly woman who sells lottery tickets to folks who want to bet on which day Po will off himself -- find their lives transformed.  The town pastor undergoes a particularly amusing change of heart after interacting with Po.  But problems emerge when, having raised local expectations Po stays on yet takes no concrete steps toward doing himself in.

Slater put on weight -- and a mustache -- for the role, details that help impart a likable vulnerability to the frequently exasperated Po.

Pithy character roles abound, including Harve Presnell as the mayor and Alison Janney as his wife, Michael Parks as the innkeeper, Robin Tunney as an angelic woman who throws herself at Po and Cherry Jones as a deaf-mute chamber maid.

Costumes and setting have an appealingly timeless quality, although tale is contemporary.  Saturated colors in exteriors and a lovely score [by Patrick Williams] with GershwinĖlike overtones contribute to picís special atmosphere.

- L. N.

Friday, September 5, 1997

'Julian Po' a Mayberry Tale with a Serling Twist

Julian Po" is as mysterious and unusual as its title characterís odd enigmatic name.  Itís pronounced "Poe" as in Edgar Allan.

Set in a meticulously detailed but imaginary American mountain town, the movie has the feel and pacing of a macabre and absurdist fable, perhaps a religious parable.  Yet in the way it is mistrustful of religion and wary of the human raceís capability to accept goodness, it is much like a French existentialist novel.

First time director Alan Wade has based his screenplay on a short story, Branimir Scepanovicís "La Mort de Monsieur Golouga."  But "Julian Po" has a traditional American look with a twist.  The small isolated mountain town populated with eccentric characters is like sleepy Mayberry.  In fact "Julian Po" could be an Andy Griffith episode written by Rod Serling.

The movie has darkly comic elements, but Wade keeps the tone relatively realistic.  While the story is far-fetched, you buy in to the director's quiet but persistent, dedication to plausibility.  It wins you over.

The acting is uniformly pitch perfect.  As Julian, Christian Slater is especially winning Ė and remarkably restrained.  His character is a timid and frightened man, at a loss for a meaning in his life.  But heís not passive or resigned to unhappiness.  Heís capable of showing humor and anger.   He has a determination to try to experience pleasure, even heís not sure what it entails.  He is a moving everyman.

Julian is a 30-year-old bookkeeper who is regretful and disdainful of his lifeís accomplishments to date.  "Itís not worth mentioning," he speaks into his omnipresent portable tape recorder.  He has never been to the sea, so heís taking a vacation there, wearing a suit and a drably conservative shirt.  When his car breaks down, he walks into a mountain town that has seen few outsiders since the Depression and seems to like it that way.

As created by production designer Steven McCabe, the townís look is one of "Julian Poís" best assets.  It has the weather beaten sorrowfulness of an Edward Hopper painting, only pushed farther and made grotesque.

Cinematographer Bernd Heinl is very careful about letting bright light and color into this town, as if it doesnít deserve too much of it.  Muted colors predominate, underlining the townís rickety, time capsule look.  It is kind of a place you might fall into if you stumbled in to a big hole while sleepwalking through real life.

Julian stays at a creepy decrepit place, a rooming house run by the viscously, leeringly evil Vern (Michael Parks, of the cult favorite "Then Came Bronson" TV series).  He decides to stay awhile, because itís a hard town to leave without transportation.  This makes the townsfolk extremely suspicious.   Is he a drug dealer?  A serial killer?  A terrorist?

They confront him in a cafť, and the scared Julian confesses that he has come to kill himself.  He may not even mean it; he may have just gotten tongue-tied out of fear.  But he immediately becomes a tourist attraction in a town where nothing interesting happens.  And cruel fate sets in.

For some, Julianís impending suicide is a source of bemusement or pleasure.  They want to help him get on with it.  Vern offers him the use of a gun; the town barber says heíll slit Julianís throat with his straight razor.  Kids in baseball caps follow him around on the streets, like stalking paparazzi.  A woman sells chances on the time and the date of his death.

But for others, Julian planís somehow set them free to be intimate with him.  Itís as if they believe Julian is sacrificing himself for them.  The town sheriff (Frankie R. Faison, a Tony award winner for his role in "Fences") confesses he once killed a man and kept it secret.  And, he says, he enjoyed it.  The nervous melancholy clothing- store owner (Zeljko Ivanick) reveals that heís a closeted gay man who loves the sheriff.  Another man tells him he wants to flee his wife and child to become an actor.

Julian, uncomfortable with such confidences, answers with heart-felt but not always deep platitudes about lifeís meaning.  And these are taken as the gospel truth by others, with disastrous results.  Only the deaf rooming house maid seems to accept him for what he is.

Among those who put faith in Julian is Sarah (Robin Tunney), a frail, freckle-faced young woman with spectacularly long brown hair and a consistent air of despondency about her.  She has had visions of Julianís arrival, and appears to see suicide as an act of bearing witness.  "She looks and smells like the beach," says Julian, who desperately wants to see the ocean.  They begin a love affair of tragic consequences.

Julian says one thing thatís hard to shake, and it is the intellectual center of this strange film.  When pastor Bean (Bruce Bohne) asks if he believes in God, Julian answers that there probably is one.  "Somebody has to apologize," he says.  It is the movieís world view, and it sneaks up on you in a seductive and devastatingly effective way.  "Julian Po" believes that love means saying your sorry.

"Julian Po" is a bit reminiscent of another strange American movie about the macabre underside of a small-town American life; 1968ís "Pretty Poison." In it a teen (Tuesday Weld) persuades a troubled, timid young man (Tony Perkins) to help her with a murder.

By S.R.
Denver Post Movie Critic