Friday, October 26, 2007

"The Darjeeling Limited" brings back the short subject with "Hotel Chevalier" as a prologue


Well, suddently the “two part film” is back. I talked about this on this blog on April 7 with the B double feature “Grindhouse.” Now, on Friday October 26, 2007. Fox Searchlight Pictures has prefixed its feature comedy “The Darjeeling Limited” (dir. Wes Anderson) with a thirteen-minute prologue “Hotel Chevalier” (no relation to "Hotel Rwanda"). As far as "limited" goes, a 70s Broadway show "The 20th Century Limited" that I saw during my last week living in New York comes to mind.

I could say that big time filmmakers have discovered the “amateur” art form, the short film, and with more money, they can make it snazzy, like a racing bike. The film had been sold on iTunes, but today it was scheduled to open as a prologue in (North American) theaters only to the Darjeeling movie. It looks grand, again like a tribute to old Fox Cinemascope pictures. It opens in a luxury Paris hotel room, and with Jason Schwartzman’s (the character Jack) hairy legs stick out from a bed, and the story develops as Natalie Portman returns. In a series of stages, he disrobes her, and at one point, we see strange bluish bruises on her upper arm. She says she doesn’t want to hurt him. What popped into my devious mind was Kaposi’s Sarcoma, with the moral lesson (in a Masters and Johnson heterosexual context) at hand. Anthony Brezican posed the question about the bruises in his USA Today article Tuesday Oct. 23 in the Life section (“’Darjeeling Limited’ leaves mysteries in its path). Throughout the scene, Schwarzman (one of Tinseltown’s best looking actors) remains clothed.

Fox tells the audience that this is a prerequisite short, and then proceeds with the feature, starting with the Fox Searchlight trademark, music and all. The feature was written in part by Schwartzman as well as Roman Coppola and director Wes Anderson (with the Coppola family, you never know, they say, but the film obviously has high-powered origins even given its indie arthouse distribution by Searchlight). But the feature is “Part 2,” so we’re not quite back to the 50s neighborhood theater concept of a short before a feature; "Hotel" is more like a gaudy film festival short. But it doesn’t quite work on it’s own without the feature, which is your comedic (with pretty vicious satire) road trip through desert areas of northern India on an old train, as three brothers (adding a facially damaged Owen Wilson as Francis, and an Adrien Brody (as Peter) whose girlish gams show a lot and are a bit embarrassing. There is plenty of cigarette smoking in the movie, and that’s depressing. Forget the health messages and the morality. The movie becomes funny and wacky, but refers back to the hotel (Jack wears a robe from it). But it is Peter who has fathered a child. Francis was hurt in motorcycle stupidity. Their misadventures seem arbitrary, staggering into tragedy in one sequence Peter tries to rescue a native boy and winds up going to his funeral. They finally have a showdown with their mother (Anjelica Huston). Bill Murray adds some seasoning as “the businessman.”

Just before the stream rescue sequence, the brothers sit around the campfire, and Schwartman's character ponders, "could we have gotten to know each other, not as brothers, but as people?"

Jack (Schwartman's character) is a published writer in the story, having written a book called (as I remember) "Lonesome Ink" and the question as to whether it imitates life comes up. In one scene, where they recall the death of their father and have to set up a funeral, Beethoven's Seventh finale plays in the background with odd effect. Debussy's "Claire de Lune" is also used.

I presume that Fox distributed the short this week and that theaters were contractually obliged to program their projection centers to show it in the proper sequence. This may have caused some consternation. Yesterday (Thursday) I went to a modern Landmark theater in Washington DC to see “Reservation Road” at the matinee, found the auditorium suddenly switched with “Darjeeling” (which had been moved to an auditorium with DLP). The theater was unable to get the show rolling, so it gave me a free pass to see “King Corn” (Balcony Releasing, dir. Aaron Woolf), a spirited Iowa documentary (“come to Iowa and have some fun”) about how corporate agribusiness is giving us Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (bad for the legs, at least). Finally, three hours later, the “Reservation Road” feature (Focus, dir. Terry George) started, and it is a tragedy. A young musical (cello) prodigy boy is killed in a hit-run, and the guilty man is a lawyer (played by Mark Ruffalo) called upon to help the boy’s father (Joaquin Phoenix) find the guilty party, with echoes of “In the Bedroom” (Miramax, Todd Field) a few years ago. The film played irony with the Boston Red Sox, in the World Series after all. The film also bears at least a tangential plot relationship to the Scottish Dogme film "Red Road" (Tartan, dir. Andrea Arnold), that came out last spring.

P.S.
After seeing this movie, I had a rem-sleep dream last night of a "Part III". It was to be from 20th Century Fox (not Searchlight), was shot flat (without scope) in B-movie sepia, and was called "Don't Tell." The imaginary movie was to be shown as a midnight sneak at an AMC theater in the dream. In my dream movie, a troupe of straight soldiers go into drag and do a show to raise money for veterans. The three stars from "Darjeeling" make the troupe, and all three do drag. (After all, that's the "payoff" in "Rocky Picture Horror Show" -- everybody does drag.) Owen Wilson (Dupree), and Adrien Brody make sense with this, but even Schwartzman has to do it, so it turns into S&M. But (in the movie) the Pentagon doesn't get it and tries to crash the show, under "don't ask don't tell". Bill Murray plays "Big Gay Al" (from "Southpark"), sings "Blame Canada" and wants to intervene on the benefit of the USO as well as the veterans. When the regular Army (RA all the way) can't get in to the theater, the fibbies use nerve gas to paralyze the celebrants (and the voyeuristic audience). At this point in my dream, the film broke, and the theater emptied. I had some paralysis of sleep and couldn't walk (even get out of the suddenly darkened auditorium) until I woke up. But in the dream I also "my" own 84-page shooting script in FinalDraft (which means the comedy isn't very long). So how about that, a dream in which one makes a "pitch" for a new movie that could go to an agent.

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