LETTER FROM L.A.: Twenty
Four Hour Filmgoers? Un-runaway production?
copyright 2002, Jim Chevallier
in the Sixties, Burt Lancaster did a film about a man who swims across the
suburbs, swimming pool by swimming pool. It is tempting to make a similar film
about Los Angeles in which the main character goes from movie theater to movie
theater, seeing daylight only long enough to get to the next showing, but
effectively living his waking hours in front of a series of Big Screens. While
I’m sure such a vision represents some people’s idea of Hell, it’s a fair bet
that some of the hoards of budding screenwriters and producers who find their
way out here live lives dangerously close to that fantasy. For someone who’s
already a fanatic, the town offers too many opportunities for out and out
my own case, as a member of the Independent Feature Project, I already have to
pick and choose among a calendar full of screenings. If I joined the SAG
Conservatory I’d see even more films. This is not to mention all the series
shown in places like the American Cinematheque (the Egyptian Theatre), the Los
Angeles County Museum and the numerous cultural centers presenting their
country’s cinema. Never mind what’s playing at the multiple multiplexii.
recent years the IFP has had a number of its screenings at the Los Angeles Film
School, off Sunset, near Vine. The school, part of a general revival of that
area, is located in the historic RCA
headquarters building, whose musical ghosts include Elvis Presley, The Rolling
Stones, Eartha Kitt, Jefferson Airplane, Neil Sedaka and Perry Como. (Not to
mention, more cinematographically, the scoring of Henry Mancini's “Pink
Panther” theme.) The school itself has become one of the hotbeds of
student film, and so familiar to many actors looking to expand their reel.
last film I saw there was “Twenty Four Hour Party People”, based on the life of
Tony Wilson, a TV personality in Manchester who nurtured the career of such
local bands as Joy Division. It’s one of those loose and slightly manic films
that always seems on the edge of veering into exuberant meaninglessness, but in
fact stays gleefully on track. More than one scene that seems witty but
pointless suddenly gets a “button” that gives it bite. One scene in particular
seems most interesting for its quirky use of an old Sonny Terry solo (and a
duck.). Until… Well, no spoilers. But the punch comes fast and hard.
Coogan, who plays the lead, is exactly the right actor for this kind of
filmmaking, landing his effects in the most off-handed manner. He endows the
character with (as the Brits say)
‘public’ (that is, to us, private) school charm and urbane naughtiness
while making it clear that, for all his irreverence, he’s a decent chap. It
turns out (as I later read in the New York Times) that he and the film
are both quite big in England and that some consider him the English Mike Myers
(though with the ‘Austin Powers’ flics, it’s tempting think we already have
an English Mike Myers.) If so, I’m
guessing this would be the equivalent of Myers’ turn as club owner Steve Rubell.
the way, Steve Coogan and the real Tony Wilson (glimpsed in the film) both
refer to themselves as ‘Mancs’. A word you might be hearing a lot of soon.
runaway production and the recession, it’s become almost second nature this
year to say there’s less and less work out here. Certainly, I’ve heard that
more often then not these last few months, from below-the-line people as much
as actors. A friend who’s done set design for years for instance, and has done
well in the past, is turning to interior decoration (also pretty competitive
out here.) So I was surprised when I said as much to a woman who does props and
set design and she responded that she’s not only been busy on a film but is
turning away work. And seemed to think those around her were too.
A sign of real improvement, or just one person’s
good connections? Hard to say. When economists can’t figure out if even the
general economy has turned around, predicting Hollywood’s trends is a fool
game. But it is encouraging to note such glimmers of hope.
if the rest of the film in question is now going to be shot in another