’Desert Winds’ is an unusual little movie, which is very different from your standard Hollywood fare. A pre-’Boogie Nights’ Heather Graham stars as Jackie, a young girl who lives in New Mexico. One day, Jackie is yelling from a cliff, trying to make echoes, when a nearby voice answers her. The voice belongs to Eugene (Michael Nickles, who played Jim Morrison in ’Wayne’s World 2’), who is in Arizona. The pair have stumbled across a freak wind-tunnel which carries their voices across the desert. We then cut to Eugene going cross-country to Philadelphia. There, he becomes involved in pornography and prostitution until seven years later, he returns home to Arizona. Once there, he visits the same bluff and is surprised to hear Jackie’s voice again. They then begin a conversation and the film becomes ’My Dinner With Andre’, set in the desert. As the two talk they become more comfortable with one another and Eugene begins to open up about why he left Arizona and how living in Philly killed him spiritually. As the pair converse, we begin to hope that they’ll meet in person one day.
’Desert Winds’ is as simplistic as it is unique. The bulk of the film is made up of Jackie and Eugene having a conversation when they are actually 500 miles away. Nickles, who plays Eugene, also wrote and directed the film, has shot the conversation in a fairly straightforward style, but it never gets boring. The conversations are laced with flashbacks that help to expand on the stories that are being told. This dialogue heavy film could have been very stagnant, but the clever editing helps to keep things moving. Graham and Nickles are both very good in their roles, especially considering that they must act like they’re talking to a canyon for most of the film. ’Desert Winds’ combines an intriguing and original storyline with some beautiful scenery to create a very special experience.
The ’Desert Winds’ DVD from Vanguard presents the film in a full-frame format. The digital transfer creates a very nice looking version of the film, with a picture that is very crisp and relatively free of grain, with the exception of some shots, which appear to be stock footage. The desert locations display very muted colors, but the night scenes show a very true black which exhibits no saturation or pixelation. The disc shows no signs of compression problems or artifacting.
The audio on the DVD is a Dolby 2-channel surround mix, which is used very wisely throughout. In the desert conversation scenes, the voice of the person who isn’t on screen comes from the front and rear speakers, to simulate an echo effect. This effect is very subtle, but adds a great deal to the film. Unfortunately, there are no extras on the disc. It would have been nice to have a commentary or a featurette so that the viewer could learn if there’s any truth to the whole cross-desert conversation thing.