Friday, July 22, 2005

THE LAST DAYS OF VAN ON EARTH: 2. A Citizen of Los Angeles: 1. Ascent

We are starting on another movie, so of course we head to Amoeba records in Hollywood. Part of this new production involves Tom filming me pressing my lips up against a glass. This seems to disturb Tom to no end. I start off by practicing on clear plastic CD covers. Tom keeps throwing these away each time I use them. He insists. Pretty soon we have to go out because there are no more plastic CD covers. We plan to stop at Amoeba, of course, even though it isn’t on the way. Tom is returning a DVD called “Force 10 from Necrophile”. What about my lips disturbs Tom, I wonder.

There is no such thing as “road rage” in LA because no other emotion is possible: people don’t call it “road rage”, they call it “driving”. Things are especially bad this evening. As you drive into Hollywood, it’s not unusual to see security standing by blockades of some residential streets: they are there to protect parking when there is some event or premiere in Hollywood. We get stuck behind a K-9 unit in a van: the dogs make little doggy eyes behind their bondage-themed muzzles.

Something is going on in Hollywood: there are cars everywhere and no place to park. People in tuxedos with walkie-talkies are everywhere. Everyone has some sort of laser printed badge on a nylon lanyard, sometimes three or four. It must be some sort of premiere at the Arclight, because the actual red carpet is out, only it looks like a tactical team in full gear is lining up on it. I admire their form, briefly. The Arclight has a multi-story parking garage. Once we take our ticket from the robot and the arm goes up, we realize we have made a mistake: you cannot get any further in the garage than a few feet. Cars are everywhere.

-Is is possible they are out of parking spaces?
-Well, if so, they should close the garage.

Parking attendants are no where to be seen. We spiral up the ramp and it only gets worse. The cars are packed all the way up the spiral of the parking garage; they are all new and all luxury cars; they are so throughly packed we fear that they might begin sliding back on us in an avalanche of style and comfort that says you’ve arrived. There is no movement, but a slow trickle upward, toward the sky, where we suppose there will be parking.

The next level is worse: out of exasperation cars are parked where they clearly shouldn’t be: cars are parked on the corners of the ramp, cars that are clearly not compact cars jut out of spaces labeled “compact”. We have to turn into the opposing, descending lane of the ramp to get around them and sometimes their are cars there, too, sometimes trying also to ascend or emerging suddenly as headlights on the way down. Another car gets trapped this way, almost struck by a descending car. Their exchange is not pleasant.

-Fuck, says Tom.

On the next level, it is not even a question of cars blocking other parked cars: cars are parked in front of elevators doors and on every level surface.

-Tom ,I think I saw a parking space on somewhere on those stairs.

We briefly spot some parking attendant in their livery. They seem jocular, relaxed, in no particular hurry, either going on break or just coming back from one, their flashlights swinging idly.

Our plan is clear. Whatever event this is, it is a nightmare. Like many problems in film production, we need to just follow through until we reach the absolute bottom and then turn around and get out. Only the bottom is the top, is the sky, poking out beneath the concrete lids of the garage ramp. Believe in the sky, I think.

We finally reach the surface. The moon is full. So is the parking lot. Nothing moves for a awhile.

-I’ve been thinking about getting a new car. Perhaps tomorrow.
-Could we have parked in that other neighborhood?
-There is not a problem parking there, says Tom, provided that we sleep in shifts

Someone scrapes off someone else’s side mirror. The woman is really angry. Somehow she works her children into the discussion, which we have no trouble hearing, even though the windows are rolled up. The doors are locked.
Someone is flashing their headlights. Their windows are rolled down and they are saying something. I tense up a bit, but when they come in range their faces are open, imploring. They are telling us to turn around, there is no way forward. They seem like a nice couple, both young and attractive, intelligent, motivated by a sense of civic duty. They also seem to have film equipment.

-I appreciate the gesture, says Tom, but we still have to turn around.

We are not alone, the line of cars move forward like they have no choice.

Eventually, we see what they tried to tell us and we cannot believe it. Where cars would ordinarily be able to continue through and head back down there is -a buffet. There is some gala event on top of the parking garage. There is a bandstand and musical instruments. An ice sculpture. But cars cannot get through or turn around. We crawl by the buffet. It looks good.

-This is a disaster, says Tom, in the technical sense of the term.
-Who put a buffet here? Someone with a lot of money made a really bad decision.
-Welcome to Hollywood.
-This parking garage must be incompetent. They must know what is happening.
-In my experience, incompetence seems to be a prerequisite for that particular industry.
-Can we cut through that rack of dry cleaning?
-We’re going to be here awhile.
-Can we complete any of our objectives?
-Yes, take this DVD and get some credit for it.

I am about to go, when another couple gets out of their car and starts moving a table that is blocking everyone’s way. This is crazy, says the woman, we’re making a space here. She seems somewhat amused and I admire her self-possession. No sooner have they cleared a space to turn around, then someone drives into the space and parks. A man gets out:

-I’m parking here.

Some serving people also come over in white livery and a general discussion begins, finally joined by some one in a burgundy jacket with a flashlight, headset , walkie-talkie and a cell phone. He helped least of all.

-Go, says Tom.

I don’t look back.

2. Descent

Down the ramp I am joined by others, who move at a light jog, as though liberated or doing something vaguely criminal. We pass a smiling parking attendant. Several people attempt to inform him of what is happening and what should be done about it. Other, less constructive things are also said. He just smiles and actually flaps his arms and says:

-I just quit

And I never saw a freer, or more natural man.

Once I am back on the street, there are tons of people and half of them have earbuds of one kind or another, walkie-talkies and many, many lanyards with badges on them. The other half looks a little lost and a little wild, like they're getting pushed around. They are because the street, even the sidewalk is blocked off. There doesn’t seem to be any way around. Space, apparently, must be made for the celebrities, for somebody. Perhaps a good half of the people there who are not security want to know who, but whoever it is never arrives, we just see the big white space made for them on the red carpet. I try to double back through an alley.

-Hey, hey, don’t go that way, it’s all fucked up, those guys’ll fuck with you.
-Oh yeah?
-Go to the left over there, then you can turn around and get out.
-Hey thanks.
-Hey, let me ask you something
-Do you like Hip-hop music?
-Yeah, I love it
-Well listen to this
-I really don’t have time right now, I’ve got to return this pornographic video.
-Well, can you help a brother out?
-Uh, I’m sorta between projects, right now
-Oh yeah?
-Yeah, but I’ve got a good network going. I’m just waiting to hear back from some people, you know. I’m hearing some things. It’s going good.
-Well, I’m glad to hear it. Sounds like you got it going on.
-Yeah, I try to
-So can you help me out at all?
-Not today, but um, definitely, if something develops, let’s get together, for sure
-Sounds good, man. I’ll see you around.

The homeless guy was right, but unfortunately, I try to dodge the crowd by cutting through another parking garage and unfortunately a smaller crowd apparently had the same idea, but had been stopped. People looked awful pissed and there was a mood that someone was going to do something about the situation, whatever that was. Mostly, everyone was just standing around. Someone, something of a leader, began berating the security guards about the California civil code, the Patriot Act and Civil Rights. These remarks were lost on the guards. We were segregated behind a clear barrier, but a barrier that formed no physical impediment. Our representative decided to take some human initiative about this:

-You can’t go through there, sir
-I just want to pee. All these people just want to pee.
-Hey, hey this is not public restroom land
-Well, see about that

We are running, more or less. A fast walk.
-Jesus, did you see that? They just tasered this guy for peeing on an Audi.
-It was a Saab.
-He had his pecker out and everything.
-Did it get hard?
-What are you, some kind of pervert?
-I just asked a question.

They sort of move away from each other after that exchange. Beneath his unseasonable trench coat, the guy who knows his import cars appears to be wearing a light chain mail.

-Jesus, you talk to somebody.
-It was a weird question, I say, to be agreeable.
-You’re not a pervert, are you?
-No, I’m not, I say and adjust the copy of “Force 10 from Necrophile” in the rear waistband of my pants.

We continue together for a while. We hear a series of popping sounds. It is not clear if they are from inside the garage or the street.

-Were those gunshots?
-Yeah they were gunshots.
-Are you sure?
-Yes, I am sure. They came from over there. Get yourself down. Come over here and keep your head down.
-T-Mobile is down or I’m not getting any reception, you?
-I use Nextel; I can’t dial out either.
-How do we get out of here?
-Not that way.

There are more gunshots. Some yelling.

-Let’s go.

We move pretty quickly. Around a corner, we spot a guy in tactical gear aimed at our corner.

-Hey, excuse me, officer?
-Keep your distance, sir
-Yeah, I just have a question
-Do not approach me!
-What the fuck! Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!
-Do not approach!
-Don’t shoot me!
-Get up slowly. What’s your question?
-What the fuck is going on around here?
-I don’t know. I’m not a police officer. I work for a private company. There don’t seem to be any around. I suggest you go back up that ramp. There are a lot of perverts around.
-Yeah, well thanks a lot.
-You’re welcome.
-Hey, is there a restroom around here?
-I’m sorry, restroom is for customers only.

-Why you let that guy talk to you that way, he’s not a cop, he pointed his freakin’ machine gun at you
-I didn’t want to buy anything.

Out on the street something is happening. There is no way through. There are sirens, but they stop suddenly, like they were suddenly mired in something. Some people are running. I am worried that they might start stampeding. Border’s Books looks open. Inside you can see young people sitting by the window, studying, drinking coffee. We have to press against the flow a bit to get in. It is surprisingly quiet. There is one staff member talking on a cell phone. We listen for a bit. She has dog with a skin disease, that’s what we learn. We look at the TV, but it just shows stuff blowing up in Iraq. There are tons of people outside.

-Where are you going?
-I’m gonna look for a book.
-What are you crazy?
-I’m not gonna buy it. I just want to see if it’s there.
-What the fuck is wrong witchoo?
-I used to study philosophy.
-We don’t have time for this.
-It’ll just take a second.

We go for a bit and it’s hard going, because it’s a Borders. I walk up to an upper mezzanine to get a better view. This is something I learned from video games. From near the Cinnabun I spot the sign for “psychology”; philosophy cannot be far off. The counter reeks of icing, shortening and spilled cinnamon. I go back down. We don’t get very far when there is a shriek from outside and people starting yelling. Everyone inside Borders is alert now, because people are starting to get pressed against the glass and one pane makes a little popping sound, but does not give way.

-I don’t think it’s here.
-Maybe there’s a back way out of here
-I don’t think they have any books here, it’s just calendars and stuff
-What about those?
-Those are on tape.
-I read that. That was good one.
-Stephen King, I’ve heard of him
-Actually, I saw the movie, but it was pretty good.

3. Arc Light

I cannot find Tom. I cannot call him. I gave away the DVD. Tom, I will pay you back, I got tired of carrying it.
The way there is really quite ugly, but once you make it through those doors, into the grand movie theatre, the air is cool and no one is yelling. A woman is smiling, at no one at particular, but, sure, you. These are the beautiful people. The Arclight has several bars, a restaurant - you can get any kind of coffee there, a baguette, even grappa, and take it with you inside to see a movie. The sound is excellent and the seats are comfortable and in the end everyone claps, really because they know who made it.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

from "A Director's Notebook"

“Rather than tell the actor what the scene is about and who they are and why it is happening -these are journalistic questions -I have the actor perform the scene and then later explain it to them. This way actions come first, explanations later and the film impacts them inside of them. I call this method the Retropropedeutic Method”
“Did you make that up, just now?”
“I thought about it a little while you were eating your sandwich. And that is how dramatic action should be introduced: don’t think about this now, think about it later when you are smelling a dog or making love.”

“Why are we shooting in order?”
“Because you really die at the end.”
“No, really.”
“But first you really fall in love. With me.”
“No, really.”
“I also die. Take my death as as much introduction to that scene as possible. I cannot think of any other way of showing you. But first, you really really become a heart surgeon.”
“That’s not in the script.”
“It’s in the backstory. Here it is.”
“Why did my character sleep with all these people?”
“Because they were lonely. You’re a friend of the lonely. That’s why you like coming to this old leathery restaurant, it’s like visiting grandparents.”
“You’re drunk”
“Why would you say that?”
“Because you are talking to me from beneath the table. Fortunately, I don’t mind because you are paying and it is actually somewhat less embarrassing.”
“Are you looking at yourself in the mirror?”
“No, I’m not. You’re steak’s here. Don’t get up. I’ll have them send it down.”
“Have them do something about all the bottles down here, too. It’s like a recycling bin. Ow!”
“Look what you’ve done, you’ve moved the garlic bread”
“I was trying to pleasure you”
“The garlic bread is not that good.”

And how this cunning picture holds her still
/At just that smiling instant when her soul,
/Grown sweetly faint, and swept beyond control,
/Consents to his inexorable will

“Does this poem mean you’ve been masturbating to my picture?”
“And so what have we learned about directing?”
“That directors are horrible, untrustworthy people.”
“You misunderstand. I give you MY trust. This is the whole point, you haven’t been violated. Your image is not you. Viewers create phantasies based on what they see, but their phanstasies aren’t you and take place out of time, in the imagination. If you understand this, you will be able to act in a motion picture and survive. If you cannot, you will perish in the idolatry of your own image.”
“Will you make love to me?”