Thursday, March 20, 2014

Apartment Zero


Fillies , my new musical film version of Equus continues to go well. Our first full cast read through is scheduled for next week. In the meantime, I'm busy working on lyrics and dance routines. I am particularly fond of my big solos One More Oat, Beautiful Foals and, for the climactic spike through the horses' eyes scenes, Losing My Sight . My biggest problem is figuring out how to execute one of my famous tap routines in the six-inch plastic horse-hoof heels that I'm supposed to wear in the big dream ballet. I would have thought that as Martina Dysart, the psychiatrist, I would have been immune to funny costumes and would have been allowed to wear, at the very least, Prada. David Fincher, our director, however, seems to have a different sort of interpretation in mind. He sees Dr. Dysart in sort of a Lady in the Dark series of visions that help give the musical numbers context. How I long for the old days of just soft shoeing down the street without rhyme or reason.

The announcement of my return to the screen in the musical version of Equus in Daily Variety and the trades seems to have raised my profile a tad. Woman’s Wear Daily is interested in a feature on GlamourPuss gowns and there's some mention of me for the Talia Shire role in The Godfather Part IV - The Musical as well. Of course, all other projects will have to wait while Fillies lenses.

In between reading sheet music, vocal coaching and deep knee bends to keep those quadriceps and glutei in shape, I popped Apartment Zero into the home theater system. It's a movie of which I remember being somewhat fond when I first saw it on its initial release and I hadn't taken a look at it since. It didn't disappoint, still being weirdly original, with atmosphere to spare; and it deals respectably well with that most taboo of cinema subjects, male eroticism. There are some irritating bits such as a transvestite with no apparent purpose, a nightclub scene of interminable length, and some slow pacing in the first half, but the movie eventually finds its legs and does not disappoint.

Apartment Zero is a story of Buenos Aires, after the fall of the military dictatorship that involved Argentina in the disastrous Falklands war. The city is a major character in the movie and Alan Parker could have taken a few lessons from director Martin Donovan who creates atmospheric effects never achieved in Evita . Adrian Leduc (Colin Firth) is a repressed Argentine of British upper crust lineage living in shabby genteel poverty and barely eking out an existence as the manager of a classic movie revival house. His emotional life is bottled in tightly as his business is failing and his mother is an institutionalized psychotic with progressive dementia. Somewhat desperate for money, he decides to take in a lodger to share his apartment (the titular Apartment Zero). Enter Jack Carney (Hart Bochner), devilishly handsome, outgoing, intensely sensual, all the things Adrian is not. He says he is an American in Argentina on a business exchange program with a local computer company.

Adrian, through proclaiming himself straight, is obviously smitten with the handsome Jack and the two begin a dangerous dance of obsession, emotional manipulation, and charged sexual tension, which escalates when Jack starts to reveal that all is not what it appears on the surface. Jack is a charming seducer, leading Adrian on and insinuating himself into the lives of the other apartment dwellers in the building. In the background, hints of violent death and intrigue begin to build, swirling around until they start to coalesce into a pattern around Jack letting the audience discover his secrets. Soon casual brutality and murder enter the picture.

The first half of the movie is rather leisurely constructed. It introduces the characters and themes, but wastes time, often on inconsequentials. For those who are patient, however, the second half develops into a first rate thriller with some clever Hitchcockian moments. Colin Firth gives a very careful performance as the uptight Adrian. The closeted gay man in love with the images of the silent screen could have become a rather nasty stereotype but Firth never makes him less than human and has a nice self-depreciating sense about the character. Hart Bochner is less successful as Jack. While he pulls off the sexuality needed to make the part work and makes him incredibly attractive to the audience, he is less successful at some of the character transformations needed to make us believe in his empty shell and psychopathology. A stronger actor could have made the last few scenes work better, but our thighs may not have been as moist.

The apartment building where Adrian and Jack live is also a major character in the film, much as the Dakota was in Rosemary’s Baby and is lovingly shot. There are also some nightmarish scenes in a garbage dump which are really stunningly executed and no one is likely to forget the last shot of Adrian and Jack in the dining room. The assorted oddballs who populate the apartment building are played (and often overplayed) by an assortment of Argentine and British character actors and are merely divertissements from the main through line. They're harmless except for the obligatory transvestite who should have been dropped in an early story conference.

Norman spent most of the movie ogling Mr. Bochner's beautiful chest. I'm going to have to put saltpeter in his gruel again. I on the other hand, had a soft spot for Mr. Firth's doe like eyes and some of the cunning fashions the port-swilling neighbor ladies had on - only I'd never pair them with those frizzy fright wigs.

Right wing death squads. Ten Commandments poster. Gratuitous Geraldine Page reference. Nearly naked Hart Bochner. Cat rescues. Proper British breakfasts.

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