Set in 1959 and released in 1986, “Desert Hearts” is utterly timeless. Not only was Donna Deitch’s groundbreaking film directed and produced by a woman, but it was the first film to show two women have a romance onscreen that didn’t result in their deaths. A little over thirty years since its Sundance debut, Deitch’s classic is getting a beautiful 4k restoration and anniversary theatrical run — complete with this brand new trailer and poster.
Adapted from a novel by Jane Rule, “Desert Hearts” chronicles straitlaced English professor Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver) who arrives in Reno to finalize her divorce. Hoping for a little peace and quiet, her world is turned upside down by the firecracker Cay Rivvers (Patricia Charbonneau). Ten years younger and not afraid to go after what she wants, Cay’s blows the lid off of Vivian’s carefully cultivated world at full speed.
The period details and sweeping Nevada landscape make the film as visually stunning as it is emotionally, supported by endlessly quotable dialogue that does just enough and rich supporting characters. It’s no wonder the film looks so good: It was one of the first features shot by Robert Elswit, the Oscar-winning cinematographer of “There Will Be Blood.”
Desert Hearts has been digitally restored by the Criterion Collection, Janus Films, and the UCLA Film & Television Archive in conjunction with Outfest and the Sundance Institute. It will screen on July 19 at the IFC Center in New York. Watch the new trailer below: