What I Peeped: Day Three
In a Dream (Jeremiah Zagar, USA): Hardly of interest only to locals, Zagar’s film on his father Isaiah – the artist responsible for the city’s ubiquitous and otherworldly mosaic murals – is a work of art itself. (And besides, it already scored the “Emerging Visions” trophy at South by Southwest.) There are plenty of dark secrets in the Zagar family closet, plus one major marital happening that occurred mid-filming. But this isn’t a case of TMI and, despite the filial connection, nor is it a reprise of Nathaniel Kahn’s My Architect. Instead it blends everything together – analysis of his work, interviews with the man, hang-out sessions with the fam, footage of him working and jaw-dropping images of the works themselves – into a transporting, visually stunning doc that doesn’t remotely let I. Zagar’s work down.
Bad Biology (Frank Henenlotter, USA): Back from a 16 year hiatus, Frank Henenlotter – he of Frankenhooker and three Basket Cases – doesn’t remotely disappoint. What can I say? The tale of a fanatically libidinous woman with seven clitorises and a man with a 24-inch member with a mind of its own, it’s something of a tour de force, granted such an achievement is measured by the abundance of penis POV shots, naked models wearing vagina masks, anthropomorphic dicks receiving CPR, even shots from inside a woman’s vagina. And to cap it all off, the film deigns to be feminist, hitting some of the same buttons as Teeth but doing it with far superior comic élan. More, please.
The Deal (Steven Schachter, USA): Be warned whenever an actor describes his latest film as their “love letter to Hollywood” – all such correspondences tend to be roughly the same. There’s nothing remotely original about The Deal, co-written by star William H. Macy: the biz is crooked, execs like the rough stuff, everyone converts to Judaism, artful scripts get turned into crap, blah blah blah. The Deal just happens to be sprightlier than most, zipping along from one familiar but well-deployed yuk to the next and anchored by the surprisingly winning team of Macy and Meg Ryan, as a knowing but flustered exec. The two take a loving script about Jewish British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli and mash it into a Jewish-themed action vehicle for recent convert LL Cool J, and despite the film being an actual independent film – and still shopping for a distributor – they still find the cash to show you enough of what such a monstrosity would look like. Immediately forgettable but hey.
Blast of Silence (Allen Baron, USA): Either the last film noir or the bridge between the genre and the American independent movement to follow, Allen Baron’s megalomaniacal 1961 low-budget hitman saga is a fine member of any of its multiple categorizations. Baron wrote, directed, produced and starred in the film, which relates a gutter-noir tale of an assassin whiling away time in New York City over X-Mas as he plans a hit. Its influence on everything from young Scorsese to, in one subplot, Grosse Pointe Blank is undeniable. And if Baron’s a bit of an inexpressive lump on-screen he was at least smart enough to cast Shock Corridor‘s Larry Tucker (see picture) as a terminally distracted gunsalesman. But what really sets it apart from the pack – along with its amazing location photography, often shot with natural lighting – is what’s on the soundtrack. Let’s not mince words: Blast of Silence features the greatest voiceover in film history. This isn’t the first-person confessional of Double Indemnity, or even the third-person of Band of Outsiders. It’s second-person - a perspective I don’t think any other film has ever adopted. Written by Waldo Salt and delivered with great relish by Lionel Stander (neither of whom were credited), it alternates between offering a snarling evocation of his nihilistic thoughts (“You’re feeling better now that you’ve got that Christmas out of your system”) and mocking his self-enforced isolation from the world. Oddly, the very rottenness of the narration gives the film a poignancy, particularly when this miserable bastard makes a fumbling attempt at relating to some old friends. Silence plays again on Monday, at 2:30pm, so call out of work, whatever it takes.
Before the film was screened we saw The Grand Inquisitor, a short by novelist, filmmaker and noir-head Eddie Muller (who also introduced). A noirish mini-companion to Zodiac, it’s notable for starring Marsha Hunt, an old noir dame (she was in Anthony Mann’s great Raw Deal) who summons up the ‘40s B-movie acting style something fierce.
By the way, Silence’s audience was partly comprised of members of Noircon 2008. You haven’t lived till you’ve sat through a noir with actual, giggling noir geeks. Also, some freaky guy spent most of the second half crawling on the floor in the row in front of me and at one point was tugging on the strap of my bag from the tiny slit underneath the seats. Who paid this guy to replicate the old Times Square theatergoing experience?
Tomorrow (in…some likelihood): Exodus, Kenny, Phoebe in Wonderland and Confession of Pain.