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Former Butte girls in L.A. review ‘Don’t Come Knocking’

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Editor’s note: The following review is written by Sheila Campeau, but is a composite of opinions and reflections by Campeau and Andre Duchesneau and Sandi Turk. All three live in Los Angeles, but still maintain their Butte roots.

The last time Andre, Sandi and I saw a movie together was in the eighth grade at the Rialto Theater on Park Street. Our mothers dropped us off, we paid a quarter and met in the balcony, a bunch of kids from St. Ann’s and Immaculate Conception. We were excited about the movie, excited about our new friendships and very excited about the possibility of sitting in a dimly lit theater next to a boy we liked.

Now here we were, 45 years later in California, going to the premiere of “Don’t Come Knocking,” a movie filmed in Butte. We were again meeting at a theater, but this time it was the Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills. We were looking forward to seeing familiar scenes of Butte and were also excited about who might be sitting next to us.

And we weren’t disappointed. Well, not entirely. Granted, there was no balcony and Sam Shepard was not there, but once we got over that fantasy, we sat down to watch the movie. Actor Ben Kingsley sat right behind us, and Eva Marie Saint, Harry Dean Stanton and T Bone Burnett sat nearby, along with other actors from the movie.

The movie begins on a western film shoot in Utah, with Sam Shepard as Howard Spence riding away on his horse, abandoning the entire production. He goes to Elko, Nev., to visit his mother, played by Eva Marie Saint, where he finds he has a child he’s never met, from an affair he had years ago, while making a movie in Butte.

The production company has hired a bail bondsman to track Howard down, and he flees to Butte, Mont. The movie unfolds there with Jessica Lange as Doreen, the woman with whom he had the long ago affair, who still waitresses at the M&M.

The movie takes many twists and turns from there, but for me, the star of the movie is Butte. Franz Lustig’s cinematography of Butte is evocative of paintings by artist Edward Hopper. There is a shot of the Finlen Hotel with the blue sky behind it that is stunning. Scenes of Uptown Butte shot from high angles down onto the streets capture the mood and architecture that is so reminiscent of Butte. The M&M Bar with its neon sign is another great shot.

LA Times writer Kevin Crust said. “Butte may well give the performance of the movie. The town’s deserted streets look both beautiful and haunted.” Wim Wenders, who directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Sam Shepard, was there and I was able to interview him. He spoke about his early interest in Butte, which began when he read the novel, “Red Harvest” by Dashiell Hammett. (See story on Page A1.) Wenders, cinematogra-pher Franz Lustig, and Eva Marie Saint came onstage and answered further questions after the movie.

When Wim speaks of Butte, he calls it “Beaut-iful.” He came to Butte again and again after that first visit and said “Butte was very dear to his heart.” Wenders is known for the acclaimed film, “Paris, Texas,” and also “Buena Vista Social Club,” which received an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature.

Our night ended at Kate Mantilini’s Deli, with directions from Tony at the Lodge Restaurant who told us to ask for Frankie, the manager at Mantilini’s, who bought us dessert. We reminisced about …what else, Butte.

It was a good night.

— Sheila Campeau

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