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Portrait of James Dean: Joshua Tree, 1951, A (DVD Review)

2 Jun, 2013 By: Angelique Flores

Street 6/4/13
$24.95 DVD
Not rated.
Stars James Preston, Dan Glenn, Dalilah Rain, Edward Singletary Jr., Robert Gant, Erin Daniels.

James Dean was known not only for his movies, but also for his cars and his affairs with starlets. 

A Portrait of James Dean offers a different look at the iconic actor in this snapshot of time right before he breaks into Hollywood. Here, he’s studying acting at UCLA, loves literature and has a healthy sexual appetite. He’s living with a nice, level-headed man (most likely a character based on real-life screenwriter William Blast).

However, he spends a lot of his time in the Hollywood Hills home of Roger, a Hollywood executive. Roger populates his lavish home with nude, or barely clothed, beautiful young men and women, who pass the time tanning at the pool, where there’s a free flow of cocktails. Jimmy, as they called him, stood out among that crowd, not only for wearing clothes, but also for his love of literature and his intelligence.

Rather than coming across as an enigmatic or tortured artist, he mostly comes across as an arrogant jerk who only seems to care about books and sex.

A Portrait of James Dean feels more like an old, European arthouse film than a biopic. Shot in a moody black and white, it plays in a nonlinear fashion, without much of a plotline. The film focuses on Dean’s sexuality, showing a string of random affairs with various people — mostly men — and one meaningful, yet troubled, relationship with his roommate.

Still, the film should appeal to any James Dean fan eager to consume anything about the legendary actor.

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