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Christian McKay

This week two new films are out. One by Rick Linklater, on Orson Welles, or something like that. By title Me and Orson Welles, nicely reviewed by A.O. Scott in the NY Times.  I took a look at the trailer, along with the PR shot in the Times, and my eyes glazed over.  First the lighting, which seems a disease of industrial production, a fraudulent haze that falls on pristine never-used clothes direct from the costume department, from wherein actors, each hair neatly combed into place just before the take, utter, mutter or bark their supposedly witty written lines.  OK, so after seeing the trailer I am more or less sure not to go see the film, and instead ponder how the insidious disease overtakes a weird “indie” director like Rick (whom I met long long ago, an admirer of my own Last Chants for a Slow Dance).  I’ve liked some of the films of his I managed to see – Slacker (except for its flippant film-school ending), Waking Life, Fast Food Nation (sort of), and I didn’t like Scanner Darkly.  A glance at his IMDb shows a long list of films, many on the stove.  One busy guy.   Clearly I haven’t managed to see most his films, and certainly not those that seem to have landed him squarely on a quasi-commercial map.  As an American filmmaker he’s interesting in that he seems to go off and do what he wants, while staying close enough to the Hwd money to land it, plus the necessary actors.   Though playing with Welles in any manner seems like tempting fate.

Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee in “The Road.”

And then, after some long pauses and rumors swirling about the industry regarding “problems,” arrives, just in time for the joyous Christmas season, The Road, based on the grim book by Cormac McCarthy.  In this case I read the book, which was compellingly obsessive, if rather repetitious, and had a near “happy ending” that betrayed everything that had preceded it.   Again, I read the NYTimes review, took a look at the trailer, as well as a little video yack by the director wherein he blathers about researching how things would look, and they worked really really hard to make a convincing end-of-the-world.   Well, excuse me, but bollocks.  A look at the above production still shows that the people who make these films haven’t a clue what dirt, grime, poverty or desperation really look and feel like.   The trailer showed more of the same – again the fraudulent clothes out of costumes, theatrically gritted up but nothing like what a pair of pants worn a week on a farm look like, much less the endless months McCarthy’s book depicts.  And ditto for the burnt out cars, wrecked towns, and the glowingly lit skin of our protagonists.  Fake fake fake.   Orson was right, F is for Fake, and somehow the film business infects nearly anyone who goes near it with the same debility.   So much so that they can fulminate on the hard work to make things look just right when the end result is they look totally wrong. Welcome to tinsel-mind.   Indeed, it is the dream factory, and even the bad dreams come dressed in fraudulence.

But then 99% of their audience wouldn’t know dirt themselves, so these computer generated devastation-scapes and set-department things have all the compelling reality of, well, TV, or Disneyland.  And isn’t that reality?

Grit by Hwd

“Art” work by Susan Dessel

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