Tuesday, March 25, 2014



Filming is proceeding rapidly on my new project, Flying Down to Reno , the musical remake of that wonderful film Airport '75 . The last few days of shooting have been given over to my big tap finale, which will be one of the most stunning extended musical sequences ever put on film. In it, I lead all of the grateful passengers in a conga line through the emergency exits of the safely landed plane. My close-ups and the master shots are done, although I thought we'd never get the timing right on the chasses and entrechats people are supposed to execute as they descend the emergency chutes. The choreographer has added some nifty bits at the end when the emergency crews surround the plane. We have some Busby Berkley type overhead crane shots in which the fire fighters and paramedics make lovely patterns with their fire hoses and IV tubing. Some of the chorus boys playing the fire fighters are quite stunning; they’re planning a tie-in beefcake calendar with them.

The only problem so far has been Margo Channing. She's very miffed that her most recent comeback role was canceled due to funding problems. Consequently, she's had to take a very small part in this extravaganza, one in which I have featured billing. The harpy is really quite put out and has been throwing hissy fits all over the set. Our location, the Pico Boulevard Chuck E. Cheese, is not only letting us use their back parking lot for the fuselage set, but is also doing the catering. I went to pick up my lunch pizza and found a large dead rat on it. I'm pretty sure Margo's behind that one. I got her back, though - I called the LA County Board of Health and told them there was a hanta virus infestation in her trailer. She now has to use the pizza parlor ladies room while her trailer is being subjected to repeated doses of toxic bug spray.

Tomorrow, we move on, and film the touching solo moment when the nun (Alanis Morisette) sings to the dying girl (Hallie Eisenberg). This has put young people on my mind (although I'm sure Hallie is some sort of stunted gnome and not at all human), so I decided to watch a film glorifying the youth of America. Fortunately, Netflix had just sent me Larry Clark's Kids from 1995. This film caused quite a stir at the time of its initial release, but I missed it, having been on location in Tierra del Fuego. Clark, prior to the making of this film, was best known as one of those arty photographers who revels in the downtrodden - sort of a male Nan Goldin, without the talent. Together with writer Harmony Korine, one of the current darlings of the avant-garde film world, he fashioned a tale of teenage angst and ennui set in modern Manhattan.

The film is a slice of life, twenty-four hours amongst a group of teenagers who seem to exist in a vacuum without adults. None seems to have an IQ much above room temperature and their days are given over to hanging out, casual sex, even more casual brutality, partying, drugs and clubbing. There's no real drama as none of the protagonists learns anything or moves forward and the film just kind of happens. What little through line there is, comes from Jennie (Chloe Sevigny) who is trying to track down Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick), the guy she lost her virginity to and who gave her a rather nasty sexually transmitted disease. Meanwhile, Telly and his friend Casper (Justin Pierce), are busy trying to deflower as many thirteen year old virgins as they can find.

I think that the filmmakers thought they were being honest and brave in making a film about real issues confronting the modern teen. A number of critics seem to have bought into that view. I do not agree. The way in which they lovingly film nubile young flesh intertwined and shined up with Johnson’s Baby Oil makes the film look like the pubescent Playboy channel; its major revelation is that Clark is a dirty old man, more than anything else. This assumption has been born out by Clark’s other cinematic efforts. The effect of blunt honesty that Clark and Korine are trying to achieve is undercut by the unbelievable adolescent world they create. Only two or three times are there any interactions between the protagonists and an adult, and one of those is a cab driver. Where are the parents? Where are the authorities? The kids have a full on melee in the middle of a Central Park afternoon and no one notices? The nightclub is full of underage substance use, sex and seems to be in violation of just about every building and fire code and no one cares? Many of the partying kids out all night look to be between 12 and 14 - no one comes looking?

I won't deny that teens cuss, use drugs and have sex - I was one myself once. But even in this liberal day and age, I have a hard time seeing quite this level of nihilism existing over such a wide network of friends and acquaintances. It also seems strange that they focused on Manhattan - most of the current ennui and anomie that seems to cause such adolescent pangs comes from the vast emptiness of the suburbs, rather than the vibrancy of the city.

If Clark intended the film to be a cautionary tale, he fails. His loving photography of all these adolescents glorifies their somewhat shocking behaviors rather than condemning them. It isn't even dispassionate neutrality, which might have served his purposes better. Instead, it's as if the Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue has come to life, glorifying city skater culture rather than suburban days at the beach and the ball field.

The DVD has the film in both widescreen and standard formats. Color and sound seem appropriate. There are no extras other than chapter selection.

Condom posters. Skateboard bludgeoning. Underwear swimming. Breast feeding. Hirsute taxi driver. Date rape. Whip-Its. Gratuitous sex talk. Gratuitous nightclub four way. Gratuitous public urination.

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