It’s not surprising that Rumble Fish was booed at its premiere during the 1983 New York Film Festival, but such a start can serve as a mark of distinction, placing a film in welcome company. Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura was booed at its premiere at the more influential Cannes Film Festival over twenty years earlier. At the San Sebastian International Film Festival in 1984, Rumble Fish was redeemed by winning the Golden Shell award. By that time, however, the film had died a miserable death at the box office.
For the most part, critics panned Rumble Fish. The primary criticism of the film was that it focused too much on style, leaving the story obfuscated by liberal amounts of smoke and painted shadows. For example, Janet Maslin, writing in the New York Times, said: “…the film is so furiously overloaded, so crammed with extravagant touches, that any hint of a central thread is obscured.”
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