I wrote last April about my enthusiasm for Alan Ball‘s Nothing is Private, or for his script rather — a nicely honed, richly drawn adaptation of Alicia Erian‘s “Towelhead,” which is an early ’90s period piece about ethnic provocations among some Houston neighbors, and particularly about a young girl’s coming of age. Then I got all jazzed in July about the film going to the Toronto Film Festival, and so I put it in the Oscar Balloon for possible Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay heat. Okay, maybe a little precipitant. Possibly.
Then today a publicist noted that this Scott Rudin film is still without a distributor, and that it will be difficult to get lined up for a strategic release and a possible award campaign before 12.31.07, and that it seems much more likely to be an ’08 release.
Maybe. The word on this film has been nonexistent, but maybe Rudin wants it this way in order to maximize the impact when it plays at Toronto. I can only once again direct attention to this AICN review from a guy named “Rocksalt” that ran four or five months ago. Obviously not much to go on, but between this and the script I’m still very intrigued.
The film costars Summer Bishil, Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Peter Macdissi, Toni Collette and Eugene Jones. It’s basically about a 13 year-old half-Arab, half-Irish girl named Jasira (Bishil) getting sexually involved with two older guys while living with her strict Lebanese father.
“My guess is that many parents have a hard time distinguishing the difference between ‘innuendo’ and ‘sensuality” — Harvard School of Public Health associate professor Kimberly Thompson speaking to L.A. Times writer Josh Friedman about definitions offered by the MPAA to explain why a film has been rated what it’s been rated..
Anton Corbijn‘s Control (Weinstein Co., 10.10), the sad but visually arresting story of doomed Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, is less than eight weeks from opening in this country, and there’s still no full-on website to support it. Whassup with that? This is one of the best films of the year so far, and the cost of creating a tight, attractive, professional-level website with all the right bells and whistles is relatively small. If you know how to work it, that is.
Sam Riley in Anton Corbijn’s Control.
All the Weinstein Co. has put up is a single information page with a synopsis, a photo of star Sam Riley (who gives one of the year’s most arresting lead performances, no question) and a little blah-dee-blah about Curtis and Joy Division and yaddah-yaddah.
The Weinstein site doesn’t even feature a link up to this new Control trailer, which is now sitting on a My Space page.
“The mark of any exceptional film is the won’t-go-away factor,” I wrote just after seeing it last May at the Cannes Film Festival. “A film that doesn’t just linger in your head but seems to throb and dance around inside it, gaining a little more every time you re-reflect. This is very much the case with Anton Corbijn‘s Control, the black-and-white biopic of doomed Joy Division singer Ian Curtis.
“I finally saw Control at a market screening last Wednesday night (5.23) at the Star cineplex, and it’s definitely one of the four or five best flicks I’ve seen at Cannes — a quiet, somber, immensely authentic-seeming portrayal of a gloomy poet-performer whom I didn’t personally relate to at all, but whose story I found affecting anyway.
“Corbijn, a music-video guy, was obviously the maestro, but a significant reason why so much of Control works is newcomer Sam Riley, who portrays Curtis as a guy who was unable to throw off that melancholy weight-of-the-world consciousness that heavy-cat artists always seem to be grappling with. There is no such thing as a gifted writer/painter/poet/sculptor/filmmaker who laughs for the sake of laughing and does a lot of shoulder-shrugging. Everything is personal, and everything hurts deep down. And Riley makes you feel what it’s like to be a guy who just can’t snap out of it.”
Again, check out the new trailer. It’s the best one I’ve seen so far, and I’ve been looking at Control-related stuff all summer.
It turns out that the Ving Rhames assistant who was found dead somewhere on Rhames’ property on 8.3, reportedly from what appeared to be wounds from two of the actor’s mastiff dogs, wasn’t killed by the hounds after all. And yet no one can figure exactly what happened. The poor guy’s name was Jacob Adams, he was 40 years old, and West Hollywood Police Lt. Ray Lombardo is describing the cause of his death as “undetermined.” I still think that anyone who owns a pack of snarly scary dogs is expressing something about who they are deep down, so I’m not modifying that piece that I wrote about this incident on 8.8.
Tom DiCillo‘s Delirious (Peace Arch, 8.15) is a relationship story about a gauche, low-level Manhattan paparazzi (Steve Buscemi) and a scruffy wannabe actor (Michael Pitt ) who talks the photographer into giving him a gig as his unpaid assistant. Buscemi shows Pitt the ropes of Manhattan celebrity-stalking, then a pretty but insecure young singer (Alison Lohman) takes a shine to Pitt and before you know it he’s working on a TV show and being snapped himself and Buscemi is the odd man out with his nose against the glass.
Delirious director-writer Tom DiCillo at Four Seasons hotel — Monday, 8.6.07, 1:25 pm
You can spot the references right off the top — a little Midnight Cowboy, a little Star is Born, etc.
The reactions to Delirious so far are running 100% positive on Rotten Tomatoes. One of the better written raves is by New Yorker critic David Denby, who calls it “a strong, bitter movie [about] a brutal and unstable process” — i.e., the icky, often ugly relationship of mutual loathing and reciprocity between celebrities and papar- azzi. He also called it “exhilarating in a way that only hard-won knowledge of the world can be.”
I didn’t feel exhilaration at all. I was okay with it by way of a certain respect, a certain recognition, a certain liking.
Delirious is a good in-and-out film (sometimes hilarious, sometimes just okay, sometimes sad and tender) but deep down it seems to be driven by feelings of outwardly-directed loathing on DiCillo’s part, for paparazzi riff-raff as well as fringe losers in general. I’m not saying this is absolutely the case, but it feels this way to me. This is my explanation, in any event, as to why the film feels seems less particular and perceptive than it ought to be.
Buscemi’s character is the main problem. All through the film he’s an immature jerk and an undisciplined id monster — screaming at doormen, acting rash and desperate and often unclassy, making stupid social blunders. In a racket as tough as celebrity photography, even the scummiest bottom-feeder needs to act like someone much better than he or she is when it comes to dealing with other profes- sionals — you need to put on a wise, cultivated and diplomatic Henry Kissinger face.
I know a little bit about getting into hot parties and dealing with door guys and publicists, and there’s just no way that Buscemi’s character could make any headway in the real world. I admit I don’t personally know any paparazzi so Buscemi’s guy may be an accurate representation, but he’s way too much of a creep for my tastes.
A guy in his late 40s who gets all upset because his parents don’t respect his work is, to my mind, a child, and who has time for that? I didn’t buy Buscemi’s home-visit scene either — what parent blatantly tells an offspring that what they’re up to professionally is worthless? Invited to a small private party with Elvis Costello in attendance, Buscemi’s guy just pulls out his camera and starts snapping away, which naturally pisses off Costello to no end. Even animal-level paparazzi would know not to play it this way. Celebrity-world operators without charm or finesse are pathetic.
If DiCillo respected guys like Buscemi a bit more he might have delved more in the minutae of who they really are and what their lives are actually like, and he would have created a slightly more rounded and particular portrait. Or at least one that wouldn’t get this kind of reaction from the likes of me.
Why, then, did I sit down with DiCillo last week and talk with him if I was mixed on the film? Because he’s a good guy to shoot the shit with — frank, confessional — and because I absolutely worship Living in Oblivion, his 1995 film that Denby accurately calls “the best movie made about independent filmmaking.” DiCillo and I spoke eight days ago for about 15 or 20 minutes in the ground-level restaurant at the Four Seasons hotel.
“I recently wrote that I could happily do without any more movies devoted to the breaking of the male bond,” David Denby writes in his 8.20 New Yorker review of Superbad. “Yet here’s an uproarious and touching picture on that theme [that] combines desperately filthy talk with the most tender, even delicate, emotion. [It] succeeds as a teen’s wild fantasy of a night in which everything goes wrong, revised by an adult’s melancholy sense that nothing was ever meant to go right.
“Superbad is a suburban mock-epic. Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera), with the help of their friend Fogell (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), agree to buy the booze for a party that the coolest girls in their class are throwing. The boys are convinced that if they deliver the goods the girls will get so drunk that they’ll make out with guys by mistake. ‘We could be that mistake!’ Seth shouts, hopefully. Getting themselves to the party, however, turns out to be a journey somewhat more difficult than that endured by the Greeks coming home from Troy.
“In spirit, Superbad isn’t so different from Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and other rude teen comedies made years ago. But the tone of Superbad, like that of other recent teen movies, is so profane and anatomical that it would shock Sean Penn‘s loutish Spicoli.
“The boys in Superbad are all internet-porn addicts. Their talk is not just dirty but bizarrely detailed — spangled with fantasy, odd practices, and curious devices. They know more about sex than boys did a couple of decades ago, but they’re frightened by what they know — the expectation of performance is so much more explicit. For them, the only mystery is flesh itself, and the presence of a willing girl sends them into anguished fits of dithering.”
If you’d asked me last night which big-name director is best known for simulating a face-punch by having an actor pretend to punch the camera lens, I would have said Alfred Hitchcock. He does this twice (and with a good amount of pizazz and precision) in North by Northwest when a bad-ass South Dakota cop slugs Cary Grant at the end of Act Two, and then about 15 minutes later when James Mason decks Martin Landau.
Then I read Dave Kehr‘s N.Y. Times video column this morning and remembered that Samuel Fuller trail-blazed this effect in I Shot Jesse James (1949), his debut film, when “a barroom brawler takes a poke right at the camera’s lens, the defining moment in a style that Jean-Luc Godard would later characterize as ‘cinema-fist.'” I’d read this, you see, but I’ve never seen this Fuller film.
I Shot Jesse James is now part of a new Criterion DVD package called “The First Films of Samuel Fuller.”
I can’t find my Sea of Love DVD, but if I had it I could run an MP3 of Al Pacino doing his “Holy cow!” imitation of Phil Rizzuto — the former N.Y. Yankees shortstop who became a much-loved Yankees broadcast commentator and Money Store pitchman– who died earlier today at age 89. Here’s a Money Store clip from the ’80s.