Friday, March 10, 2006

Camera Obscura - Objects and Lies

Funny isn't it - no limos will glide up to a newly renovated Tennessee Theatre, no media will crowd the velvety ropes outlining a regal length of red carpet, no spotlights will arc across the night sky high above Gay Street. Nope, none of that will happen for the movie that was filmed in Knoxville back in 2004 and finally opens in theaters in the U.S. today. I did search for ANY city in the state where it might be opening .... but ... not there. The movie "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things" finally found a distributor, Palm Pictures, but it doesn't have the kind of story that draws admiration, with issues like child abuse and drug abuse front and center. I do remember back in the 1987 when the limos and velvety goodness did herald a Knoxville Premiere, for the truly awful horror movie directed by David Keith, "The Curse." Got to meet Claude Akins that night (oh, come on - Sheriff Lobo? "B.J.. and the Bear"? "Rio Bravo"? how about that "Monsters on Maple Street" episode of the original "Twilight Zone"? .... no?) And there was a heck of a party at Lord Lindsey's afterward.

"The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things" arrives too with a new promotional tag line, that the writer of the stories it was based on, J.T. LeRoy, was a "great literary hoax" and that the real writer is a woman named Laura Albert. For some years now various people have shown up at all the "hot clubs" or film openings or book signings pretending to be LeRoy until Leroy was outed a few weeks ago -- in fact just after the big shocking Oprah episode where she gave a public spanking to writer James Frey for making up things in his "memoir" about drug abuse and child abuse. I guess if Oprah doesn't give you publicity, then J.T. LeRoy's made-up stories just get lost in the daily shuffle of lies and half-lies that tumble off TV screens and press conferences every few nanoseconds.

Director and co-star of the movie, Asia Argento's second feature does tell a truth in the myths of this story about a young boy raised by a prostitute mom, a series of abusive father substitutes, and is raised for a while as a girl instead of a boy before becoming an adolescent street preacher. And it is a pretty ugly truth - abuse exists and lives get twisted and torn to shreds.

The movie does boast a hefty collection of oddball celebs in bit parts - Peter Fonda, Winona Ryder, Marilyn Manson, etc etc - but don't expect much of any spotlights or red carpets anywhere for this movie. It's disturbing, and could well be a horror movie as made by Asia's dad - Dario Argento. I'm sure more moviegoers will be far more at ease this weekend at the remakes of "The Hills Have Eyes" or the "The Shaggy Dog" (isn't this like the eighth remake of this movie?)

As I was thinking about the current state of "the hoax" and what gets labled a "lie" and what is labled "truth", it reminded me of one of my favorite movies, "Blow-Up" from 1966. The story is about a bored photogapher (David Hemmings) who may have seen or may have imagined seeing a murder take place on a windy day in a London park. He becomes deeply obsessed with the photos he took of "the incident", blowing up the pictures to larger and larger sizes, until all that's left is a collection of black-and-white dots - is there a meaning to the dots or does he make the meaning exist?

Toward the end of the movie, he shambles into a nightclub where The Yardbirds are playing "Stroll On" and the crowd watches like zombies until the guitars start to get smashed and they go wild. A young Jimmy Page keeps playing while a really mad Jeff Beck just stomps on the guitar and hold the pieces up for the audience to see. For some reason, the photographer grabs the guitar neck in a furious struggle and runs away, but no one follows - he tosses the broken pieces away in the street, waiting for someone else to find it and place a meaning to it.
Here's the clip:


1 comment:

Wednesday T. Guevara said...

I think the JT Leroy hoax is far more interesting than the James Frey story. All Frey did was lie about his own life and hoodwink the Big O. Laura Albert created a whole person and fooled half of Hollywood (and three quarters of the Literati). It's weird, but I'm amused by the Leroy thing because I love a good hoax, but I'm annoyed by the Frey thing because I can't stand a liar.

What is the difference? Is one instance of Truthiness "worse" than the other? Leroy's works were classified as Fiction at every book store for which I ever schlepped, whereas Frey's book could always be found in Biography.

Maybe that is the difference right there. Even though a great majority of the people who supported Leroy's novels and short stories believed they were autobiographical, the fine booksellers of America put the books where they ought to be: in the Absolutely Not True section. That should tell you something, but what?

Anyhow, I still want to see this movie. I love Asia almost as much as I love her daddy.