God's Little Acre

God's Little Acre
Lord, make way for gold

the girlfriend experience

the girlfriend experience
chelsea's work

Trash Humpers

Trash Humpers
broken, faked, MADE

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Your Film Becomes You: Jerry Lewis and HARDLY WORKING

Jerry Lewis was born as a wiry Jewish boy with a more Jewish name, in Newark, NJ.   But you wouldn't know it from  his 1981 film HARDLY WORKING.  Here  he is muscular, more manly in stature, suave, poised, intense, creative,  has a goy name of Bo Hooper, and he is serious about labor issues and  the  importance of the role of the artist in society.  At the same time you WOULD know it is the same Jerry from seeing HARDLY WORKING!  In the very same film, as the same man, he speaks with an undeniably Jewish new york/new jersey-ese tone, he is ugly, he is goofy, he is inept, he is selfish, he is simple and he is a schmendrick.

A little back track:
 Jerry Lewis directed himself in his first film in 1960.  He he had already been performing in motion pictures for eleven years.  After having a critical smash with his 1960 debut of THE BELLBOY, Jerry  continued to direct progressively more challenging and unconventional films on a regular basis, through 1970.
After 1971's tortured completion of THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED was sealed from the public and never released, Jerry went on a directorial hiatus for ten years, until he returned, again directing himself as the lead, in 1981's HARDLY WORKING.

After the internal artistic punch of TDTCC, Jerry took his time making a comeback and a return to the helm, but he still took a lot of chances. More than ever before, in fact.  The film consists of several jangly, disconnected sequences that serve as set ups to show Jerry failing in different job situations.  He is, at heart, a clown. The film opens with him as a beloved clown of a circus troupe that is being shut down.  He travels to the upper -middle class suburbs of Florida to move in with his sister and her  disdainful banker husband. There is an alteration of serious moments within the much more goofy episodes.
If you watch the film and note a strikingly earnest tone, a series of jokes that seem to go on a moment too long or hold too long for a laugh..or just a generalized strange combination of moral and political seriousness you dont quite buy and silliness that seems too zany...then this is because Jerry Lewis has (finally) succeeded in creating a most perfect evocation of the way he is, and the vision with which he sees and lives in the world.
Jerry is in conflict, and he is a man in progress. He goes and back forth between overcompensating to prove himself, and just being relaxed.  The film reflects this progressive turmoil. Jerry is pompous and he is also a clown. He is an egomaniac, and he also loves to speak (in my opinion  based on seeing him in person and also watching the telethons forever, it's out of both  true human concern as well as the love of hearing himself talking about being a good person.)
Jerry makes sense to me in a familiar way.  He strikes me as a similar type of person as my maternal Grandfather, Sol.  Sol could be described as a perfect definition of one who suffers "Small Jewish Man Complex", a complex more common back in the time of Jerry and Sol. 
Sol comes not from Newark , but from a tenement on Henry St., on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, born to immigrant parents. He is small in stature, but he becomes extremely fit and strong through bodybuilding and physical fitness; doing body (and nude) modeling for Physical American and other popular magazines. He also becomes brilliant, a voracious reader, and he is socially liberal, and he disavows his family's Judaism, becoming an Atheist.  
Jerry's first big break was performing with Dean Martin.
My grandfather's was getting a job at CBS in midtown writing for and with Arthur Miller.  Both men legally changed their names to sound less Jewish (Sol changed his when he was joining the Writer's Guild.)  Jerry is fascinating, and Sol is actually pretty interesting too.  I loathe and love things about both men. They both teeter between grandiose egotism and man of the people ridiculousness.  I make the comparison to point out the uncanniness of Jerry. How familiar and yet how strange he is. And HARDLY WORKING captures the essence of the discomfort of this perception and experience of him unlike any other film has before.

Jerry is magnetic in person , as himself.  He is a contradictory blast of ice and warmth, of sincerity and total falseness, and he is a marvel whose talent surpasses most on this planet.
HARDLY WORKING is his opus; refusing to shut up, making us laugh, making real a fantasy and a specific personality.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

tacky morality: The politics of drinking and 'goodness' in GOD'S POCKET


 A lazy way to characterize a geographic place is to say it is close to God, and use terms as nebulous and subjective as "goodness".
Is a working class town (in Massachusets? or  is too REAL and too GOOD to be a specific city?)worthy of being in the pocket of the Lord?   How small and invisible must one be to fit inside the cotton confines of a pocket?
Too small for the visual medium of film to perceive you.

GOD'S POCKET is comprised of people who drink a lot, drink as  lifestyle, or drink out of  Addiction. There is a New Yorky, Italian American immigrant contingent led up by a game John Turturro. He knows exactly who he is, I completely enjoy and believe him, yet I never believe he is  a member of this town.  Considering the rest of the pack, Turturro is still one of the most nearly honest people who populate the pocket.
There is also a Chicagoan Italian American Immigrant contingent; Lenny Venito slyly steals a scene or two to that end.
Question: Who is believable as a resident of a town of lies?
Answer: Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Without much context, there are multiple times when a character screams out at PSH's character that he isn't even from here!
You wouldn't know.  He seems at home.   Everyone in this community accepts him. He is a gangster, he is a husband, he is an Irishman. He shrugs, he goes above and beyond for his duplicitous two timing wife (a sleepy Christina Hendricks who tries her best with a lack of direction), and he never speaks up about the effort  he employs. His every breath and glance is Honest.

He drinks, but he is not a resident of the bar.

The drinkers speak the truth, and I believe them more than most of the protagonists.
Richard Jenkins drinks too much and he portrays a truth teller who is nothing but a big liar. But who is REAL and who is HONEST?
The real drinkers and the real actors are the only ones who I can believe exist in this town.  Eddie Marsan is so fucking bizarre and not like someone I recognize that i believe every twitch , every tonal shift in his non European sound . His body leads with his shoulders and his hips are absolutely invisible.  His spry energy and pointed looks are what is upright and good in the world. There is no God, only people that act like Eddie Marsan.  Hoffman is  electric as a tired man who is resigned to a partner in life who will never protect and support him as he does for her.  His line readings are not line readings, they are habitations ,and the real ghost of the person jumps out of his skin; suddenly the dead rises through his voice box as the melody of his voice shoots up abruptly, shocking us into an authentic person in an actual moment.

On paper the rest of them are also talented actors.  But they do not live in this town that is like seven different regions of the country sandwiched in one non existent idea.  The rest of the residents are playing with costumes, or playing with hair or accents or are playing at being nude. They lie to us, as the film lies about telling us who is good and who is god and where god places people.  People are not good because they work hard or because they define their community and wall it in.  People are not good because they try to challenge or question that community and it's borders.  People are good because they make me believe them in a scene in a movie.  And there is not much more here than that.

Lorna's Silence

Lorna's Silence
spirit interrupts

the girlfriend experience

the girlfriend experience
chelsea managing the business


cutting through the walls