Saturday, September 15, 2007
My blatherings about the 1920's, silent and early sound film, old performers etc. are temporarily being put on hold due to a wonderful piece of film from the 1960's that I found on youtube which has led to a very enjoyable waste of an afternoon looking at other, related items from the same time period.
So, much as I love the twenties--let's leave them in the trunk for awhile. Instead, welcome to Hollywood, 1966. This is a short film called "The Party" that Robert Altman made at his house in Mandeville Canyon. Commissioned by a company making films for viewing in jukeboxes called ColorSonics, it is literally a "home movie"--Altman was famous for throwing parties on the weekend and on this particular weekend he shot a short. Set to "Whipped Cream" by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, the film might well be considered a pre-MTV music video--by nature it's plotless, surreal, driven by the music and leeringly misogynistic in all the right ways. It ends with some trick-underwater photography that I can't figure out how the hell they did. Did he perhaps have one of those underground "poolrooms" next to the pool? (As a kid I knew someone who had one--you could go downstairs, look through a window and see underwater...) By the way, the "lead" is Robert Fortier who Altman used a number of times--they met in the "Combat" TV days and later he turned up in "Three Women", "Health", and "Popeye."
I met Altman a handful of times and found him to be terribly funny and qenuinely outrageous in his opinions. When Spike Lee failed to be nominated as best director for "Malcolm X", Lee said publicly that he thought the Academy was prejudiced. This appalled just about everyone except Altman. He was nominated the same year (1992) for "The Player", and when asked by some E.T. style interview show how it felt being up for a nomination, Altman replied "I think Spike's right--they're all a bunch of racists." And that was him on a mild day. For some reason, I liked bringing up his most obscure work and asking him about it--which both annoyed and charmed him. Twice I pestered him to see his print of "The Delinquents" (he insisted he kept it precisely to keep people like me from seeing it) and I once asked him about the film he made right before "Mash", a Sandy Dennis movie called "That Cold Day In The Park." He got a strange faraway look in his eyes and said, "I don't believe anyone can see that film. It's lost." Imagine. He also asked me about an actress in my film "Two Family House", Kelly McDonald. "Why did you use her? What was she like?" Lots of quearies along those lines. The next year, Kelly turned up in "Gosford Park" and I felt unjustifiably proud.
The below short is set in the LA world that I remember as a kid--the canapes, the ciagrettes, the poolside party-down dolce vita lifestyle. A version of it must still exist--though perhaps what's missing is the genuine feeling that everyone is "out here" because it's a better life.
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 2:55 PM