Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Harvey Watch: Blue in the Face (1995)

After Teen Witch, I needed to cleanse the pallet, and the first thing that popped up in my years-old Netflix queue was the 1995 kind-of-odd movie, Blue in the Face.

If you've never seen it, it's a sort of sequel to the 1995 drama, Smoke, which I haven't seen in forever, but which I highly recommend.  It's 90's indie film making at its purest and best and stars Harvey Keitel and William Hurt, too of my favorite guys from that era.

When the movie wrapped, they had the location and - as has never happened before in the history of film, extra budget - and apparently Harvey Keitel was around, anyway, so they made up an entirely secondary movie on the spot.  Director Wayne Wang and Paul Auster - who wrote the novel upon which Smoke was based, thought up some scenarios, put out a call, and, like, tons of folks showed up to be in the movie.

You get Mira Sorvino, Rosanne Barr, Michael J. Fox and more.  Hell, RuPaul and Madonna both show up.  The movie also features Jim J. Jarmusch playing himself giving up cigarettes, and it's pretty great.  Lou Reed is just simply interviewed, and if you like Lou Reed - the man doesn't disappoint.

The movie is nothing but a love letter to a Brooklyn I assume has now disappeared under a wave of artisanal coffee shops, over priced groceries and bespoke handkerchief outlets, if what's happened to Austin since Slacker came out is any indication.  Between the sketches, you get interviews with Brooklynites, some local flavor and custom (apparently Belgian Waffles are a thing), and everyone's still pissed the Dodgers left (who can blame them?).

What I remembered about the movie from watching it on VHS the first time are the following things:

1.  The soundtrack includes a David Byrne/ Selena duet, God's Child, which is one of my favorite David Byrne tracks from the 90's.
2.  Byrne also is listed as a producer.  Which I guess must be true.
3.  You get to hear Michael J. Fox swear
4.  Actress Mel Gorham's monologues
5.  Actress Mel Gorham singing "Fever"*

It's not a great movie, but it is a curiosity.

Mostly, I just really like how chill and happy it all feels.  They didn't go out of their way to write a movie that's super depressing or complicated.  It's little snapshots of characters and life in a specific neck of the woods, and that's okay once in a while.  Especially on the back of Smoke, which fulfills the promise that the story you're seeing is about one of the most challenging parts of the characters' lives, so Blue in the Face - named for the fact the actors were improving until they were "blue in the face", is the rest of the life, or at least a glimpse of it.

*it's kind of weird that bit didn't get her more gigs.  I dunno.

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