Almost exactly 20 years ago River Phoenix collapsed and died of drug-induced heart failure in front of L.A.’s Viper Room on the Sunset Strip, at age 23. Tomorrow I finally get to see George Sluizer‘s Dark Blood, the film Phoenix was working on but hadn’t quite finished at the time of his death. 80% of the film had been lensed; only interiors remained. Phoenix’s costars included Judy Davis, Jonathan Pryce and Karen Black. Sluizer has somehow pulled it together with narration and other techniques. All kinds of rights issues and territorial blockages had obstructed his progress. Blood first peeked out last year in the Netherlands. Here’s a review from Variety‘s Boyd van Hoeij.
Before we had our big texting meltdown the ex-girlfriend and I went last night to a massage-and-swim health club on Wilshire and Mariposa. She had called and reserved a massage for me as well as herself. She went into the women’s salon and I naturally went over to the guy’s entrance, which is on Mariposa. I paid $60 for a massage with my card and walked downstairs to the dressing area and froze in my effing tracks. For there were five or six older undressed Asian guys sitting and standing around, all wearing disgusting rubber flip-flops with two or three in towels and two or three without towels with their flabby white hairless bellies and ugly members hanging out. “Good fucking God!,” I said to myself. A red light began flashing in my brain. I turned right around, bounded up the stairs and got an immediate refund. “Is anything wrong?,” the lady said. “Don’t worry about it,” I said. “Just cancel the payment, please.” Never again. Crunch, my Manhattan health club, has private shower stalls with little shower curtains. I never again want to look at a beefy old guy with his schlong hanging out…ever.
Variety‘s Scott Foundas has added his name to the short roster of those who greatly admire Ridley Scott‘s The Counselor (i.e., N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis, film maven F.X. Feeney, Toronto Star‘s Peter Howell, myself and four or five others). Foundas calls Scott and Cormac McCarthy‘s drug-dealing film “a ravishing object — a triumph of mood and style, form as an expression of content, and dialogue that finds a kind of apocalyptic comedy in this charnel-house existence. It is bold and thrilling in ways that mainstream American movies rarely are, and its rejection suggests what little appetite there is for real daring at the multiplex nowadays.”
Biopics of revered political underdogs can only tell the tale. Modest beginnings, protagonist shows mettle, rise to power, complications from adversaries, big climax, end coda. Diego Luna‘s Chavez (due next April) is the first feature drama about migrant labor leader Cesar Chavez. Produced by Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal and Mr. Mudd’s John Malkovich, Lianne Halfon and Russell Smith with a script by Keir Pearson (Hotel Rwanda). Participant will distribute. Chavez costars Michael Pena, America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson, Malkovich, Yancey Arias, etc. Why did Chavez die at age 56? Biography.com says that Chavez’s hunger strikes (one having lasted 36 days) may have “contributed” to his death on 4.23.93, in San Luis, Arizona.
There’s a dedication at the end of Ridley Scott‘s The Counselor to his late brother, director Tony Scott, who ended his life on 8.19.12. In a 10.24 review HitFix‘s Drew McWeeny suggested that the film’s dour, fatalistic tone might stem from Ridley’s feelings about his brother’s suicide. “It is cold and it is angry, and it may be the most pessimistic, unhappy film Ridley Scott’s ever made,” Drew declares. I for one feel there’s something cold and curious about nobody in this town having the slightest interest in knowing why Tony Scott jumped…still. The last time I spoke with him was during the Man on Fire junket, and he seemed in fine spiritual shape. Obviously he ended up deciding that leaving was a more attractive option than staying. Scott was apparently susceptible to depression (Mirtazapine was in his system) but nobody seems to want to know what the hell happened. It doesn’t figure that someone as talented and connected as he would just push the button. Some day an explanation or educated guess of some kind will surface.
There’s another wackjob in the building besides the gay guy upstairs who loudly cackles each and every morning around 7 or 7:15 am. The new guy (who’s actually been here several months) is a young Charles Manson beardo who’s twice asked me if Mouse is my cat. What kind of a saliva-dribbling, pajama-wearing public enemy do you have to be to notice a neighbor calling and clapping for his cat and then say as the cat runs up, “Is that your cat?” Last night around 10:30 pm I opened the door and Manson was standing two feet from the doormat, rock-still like a mental patient on thorazine. I looked at him and told myself not to worry (lots of people stand two feet in front of my door!), and again I called out “Mouse!” and right away he appeared and ran indoors, and this guy said as Mouse ran by, “Is that your cat?” I looked at this twisted fuck and said, “No, he’s a stray. I just call him Mouse because he reminds me of a cat I had who was kidnapped by some guy who looked like Charles Manson. Is he your cat? Do you want to pet him or something? What meds are you on? If they let you out on weekends, don’t you have to be back by Sunday nights at 9 pm?”
“This movie is so close to us,” Adele Exarchopoulos told The New Yorker‘s Emily Greenhouse in a 10.24 post about Blue Is The Warmest Color. “The camera was so close to us, we had to give everything. Director Abdellatif Kechiche, she said, “wanted to capture your soul.”
“’When he’s watching people,’ she said, describing nights at clubs and endless walks with the director, ‘it’s as if he’s on another planet sometimes. Something spiritual.’ On camera, Exarchopoulos does what every French teen-ager does — a mix of cigarettes, sex, and wine, in leather coats and messy hair just so — but she brings a jerking sensitivity and almost animal-like reactivity to the screen. In conversation, she’s like any other person who puts everything out there — which, especially before you’re twenty, is braver than it looks.
I obviously dip into non-film topics in this space from time to time, but I draw the line at relationship stuff. I’ll allude every so often to something going really well but leave it at that. Boundaries are respected, no telling tales, stays in the box. But I’m also figuring there’s nothing terribly gauche about acknowledging that it’s exhausting to go through a two-hour texting meltdown when things have taken a turn for the worse.
I wonder if anyone hashes this stuff out eyeball-to-eyeball any more. Thank God that iMessage allows you to text from a computer keyboard — I don’t think I could thumb my way through one of these ordeals. Texting your innermost disappointments and lamentations while keeping up your end of the “debate” (which can never be won or lost, of course) is quite debilitating. When you wake up the next morning you feel empty and a bit numb. Is “gutted” too strong a word?
There’s no question that Paolo Sorrentino‘s The Great Beauty (Janus, 11.15) is a mesmerizing film. Dazzling, swirly, lacquered and narrated to a fare-thee-well — a resigned and somewhat rueful examination of a 21st Century La Dolce Vita lifestyle of a journalist-novelist (the great Toni Servillo) who’s letting it all slip away. It finally feels more Roman that universal, but the diversions are quite formidable. It’s very beautiful, meditative…a big ambitious reach. I said as much last May in Cannes. But what a comedown to have seen it on the big Lumiere screen inside the Grand Palais, and know that it’s set to play on one of those cramped shoebox spaces at the Lincoln Plaza. Something unjust about that.