Friday, September 12, 2014
people who think “highly of it”, occasionally turning up in message boards to ask if the Warner Archive (which has made the release version available) might put out the original cut one day. Even if what we have now isn’t what it was originally meant to be MIKE’S MURDER remains an original; sad and piercing, an L.A.-set mood piece that could be paired with something like NIGHT MOVES but also at its heart a true character piece that’s not about solving a mystery but about the lack of connection you ever really have with people you meet in this town. It’s a flawed film, a sad film as well as a fascinating one as well that in addition to featuring one of the very best Debra Winger performances gets at yearning and loneliness in Los Angeles in a way that few films have ever attempted, let alone express any interest in. It nails how empty the town can seem late at night when you know the phone isn’t going to ring. Whatever its problems and whatever went on in the cutting room it’s a film with a soul deep down than you can’t quite shake. theatrical trailer contains a number of shots not seen in the finished film, almost as if it’s advertising a different version entirely—even seen out of context a few shots seems more stylized than anything in the final film, making me wonder if this is a clue towards how the original version may have played and it could be argued that the trailer fills in some exposition that the movie itself never quite gets around to. Even if MIKE’S MURDER (also written by Bridges) can’t be called of the great Los Angeles movies—in this form it’s possibly too disjointed to achieve that label—it allows for a look at the city that few other films provide finding the balance between those houses up in the hills that we wish we lived in and those places we probably shouldn’t be finding ourselves late at night where certain drug deals or who knows what are going on. The film’s portrayal of gays, particularly Paul Winfield's record producer, feels both sympathetic and matter-of-fact as well as if being presented by somebody from the inside who fully understands it. “Without You” played over the end credits sounds a little incongruous after the ending but it serves as a reminder of when it was heard on the radio earlier as Betty drives Mike up to the house on Doheny. It’s those songs that stay in your brain because of those moments that remain with you because of that other person for reasons you never fully understand. Maybe since things are missing those moments are what MIKE’S MURDER can be in the end which if anything is a lot more than some films have.
Thursday, July 31, 2014
“Once in a Lifetime” was in heavy rotation on MTV back in the day I think revisiting the number again in context after all this time was almost emotionally overwhelming for me. It is kind of a perfect birthday song, after all, much like how I once decided that Boorman’s POINT BLANK was a perfect birthday film. After all, how did I get here? How old am I now, again? The next morning I drove up to Griffith Park Observatory and looked out at the city, silently thinking about these things, the lyrics continuing to echo through my brain. I dug out an old cassette of the soundtrack and kept listening to the song, wondering about myself just as I imagine anyone in the world wonders about themselves while it plays. It’s still with me now. Maybe more than usual, maybe just as much, as I try to figure out where I’m going. And maybe more than ever it all seems murky, every day another reminder that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Some may have forgotten but “Once in a Lifetime”—and, specifically, the STOP MAKING SENSE performance of it—is heard over the opening and closing credits of Paul Mazursky’s DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS, one of the biggest successes to ever come from the director who passed away at the age of 84 on June 30. BLUME IN LOVE and AN UNMARRIED WOMAN period, a decade which he portrays the journey of in his Truffaut homage WILLIE AND PHIL. Coming six years after the release of that film, the more blatantly comical DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS is just as much about its own moment, coming within the ever-growing rot of the Reagan era and the harsh sunlight caking down onto the cement. Maybe it’s because of the weather in L.A. lately but I look at the shots of the Whiteman’s house and surrounding neighborhood and it always seems so hot and garish, no shade to bring a moment of peace to anything. Even though the film is set during the holiday season it never feels that way in the slightest (the inherent Jewishness of the Whiteman family feels intentionally buried as well). Dave Whiteman feels guilt that no one else around him feels, the guilt that no one in the 80s felt—ultimately, the film is about coming to terms with that guilt and doing something with it. He’s another Mazursky protagonist who, as successful as he is, doesn’t understand how he actually got to this place, as certain song lyrics declare, and isn’t sure what to do about it now that he is. “i was there”. And he was. Maybe, in the end, it doesn’t matter how you got there and whether you belong, something that Dave Whiteman in DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS seems to spend too much time obsessing over. Maybe all that really matters is that you were there, somewhere that mattered to you, and that you spent the time you had doing something. Because, no matter what, there will only ever be a limited amount of time to do it. Same as it ever was.
Monday, June 30, 2014
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Dani’s birthday party in Griffith Park one afternoon. Because Dani always had a knack for doing this sort of thing at his events part of the day involved him pairing people up together so they could go off by themselves to various corners of the park and, well, analyze each other. Take my word for it, if you knew Dani this wouldn’t seem at all odd. I was paired up with a woman I’d never met named Jill Soloway and in all honesty much of what we talked about has long since left me but I do remember that our conversation was intense, satisfying and somewhat cathartic. If I had known then that she was going to go on to be one of the main creative forces behind one of the best television shows of the aughts, SIX FEET UNDER, maybe I would have written some of it down. I also probably would have tried a little better to stay in touch with her, but never mind. All this time later I still run into Jill Soloway in random places every few years and get a vague look of recognition on her face which is better than nothing from the writer of the “I’ll Take You” episode of SIX FEET, I suppose. After working on several other series through the years including UNITED STATES OF TARA and DIRTY SEXY MONEY, 2013 saw the release of Soloway’s first feature film as director, the unexpected and piercing AFTERNOON DELIGHT for which she won the Best Director award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and was also named by no less than Quentin Tarantino as one of the best films of the year. A comedy that always remembers to keep genuine emotions in mind, a character study which never holds back on all the flaws of the people in it, it’s a brave and admirable piece of work. That it’s mostly set pretty close to my neighborhood makes it that much more interesting for me, set in a world that I recognize but am not really a part of, fitting since it’s made by someone who I’ve met but can’t honestly say I know.