Thursday, May 24, 2012
"Believe in Eve"
"The Intra-realist borrows from all the failed movements of time, flings its way through the 'isms' the way it would through the scarf section at a thrift shop."
The Intra-Realist Manifesto
highwayscribery viewed the feature film "Believe in Eve," a night or so ago, and hasn't stopped replaying it since.
"Believe in Eve," was well-accepted in some dark and dank corners of our culture. But generally speaking, those of us who created and brought it to the big screen were mostly subjected to insult and ostracizing in the immediate wake of its 1990 release.
The movie was produced by elegant Mob Films, an evolutionary step in the artists collective of the same name that thrived in late 1980s Los Angeles.
The spontaneous clustering occurred around "READ" magazine, a literary review circulated at a nightclub of the same name started by Larry Karaszewski, Jaime Glanz, and Nick Griffin.
The magazine was run by Antonio Mendoza, Jose Perez de Lama Halcón, and the highway scribe. There was a core of some 20 regular contributors and a total of around 75 rotating poets, graphic artists, photographers and performance types who added to both the review and public events thrown at Zatar's Bar on Wilcox Ave. in Hollywood, and at Gorky's downtown, to name only the regular happenings.
One of those contributors, Javier Gomez Serrano, asked the scribe to script the movie Javier had in his brain. Jaime Glanz loaned the scribe a photocopied book with a title like, "How to Write a Screenplay and Make a Million" and a few weeks later, there was a script for what would eventually become "Believe in Eve."
The various currents of which The elegant Mob was comprised coalesced around the effort. We had the numerical might to cast and fill out scenes and crew with our own crowd and enough cachet as an edgy, artistic outfit to convince producer Jose Vergara we were worth a shot.
The powerful negative reaction we experienced would lead all but the most mature of artists to recoil from their own creation.
But 22 years on, highwayscribery feels only pride. It boggles the mind that a group of dynamic young people gathering their own resources, and leaning upon one another to make the film, should have been so maltreated, rather than granted the careers they richly deserved.
We were the honest ones.
True, we had no notion of the film industry's workings or of its commercial demands. If we had, we would not have cared a damn. We were intra-realists, disdainers of Mammon. What we cared about was the film being what it needed to be, which was what we wanted it to be.
Quaint, yes, but genuine to the extent that was the energy which drove the project.
When the scribe would view "Believe in Eve" some years after it was made, he gnashed his teeth at the metered discussions and the ornate alliterations from the script, ashamed they were amateurish juvenalia compared with the crisp and charged dialogue that would mark his later screenplays.
But The elegant Mob was, after all, a group of poets. The films that jazzed us were "Un Chien Andalou" and "Sang d'un Poete," and we sat around most nights writing poetry or reciting it somewhere.
It was only natural that we create a lyric and theatrical work for film. It was an "Art" film and announced itself to be so in the very first scene, which entails a furtive and tense walk through a gallery replete with Sergio O'Cadiz's renderings of Eve, the mother of all human beings.
In retrospect, the actresses, Monique Salcido and Anna Nicholas (Ann Royal), appear pitch-perfect and absolutely gorgeous. Alex Sellar as the wayward Juan Roman is thoughtfully nuanced. The powerful Keith Coleman maintained a menacing presence as Dash, while Andrew Koch made a Franval out of whole cloth, ignoring the script, yet somehow remaining sensitive to its boundaries.
Gene Butler's rendering of The Reverend seems now like something of a life-saver, his interpretation wresting some of the highway scribe's youthful rage from the role, tainting it with a dark sarcasm and terrifying congeniality.
the scribe did not see this at the time, because he'd imagined a movie in his head and transcribed it to paper, and these were not exactly the characters he'd had in mind. But the thespians, in the end, knew the characters better than the person who created them. And this is the magic behind the collaborative film process.
"Believe in Eve" represented the Platonic ideal of collaboration.
We were influenced by the Surrealists and Situationists. There is a scene in which Dolmance robs a postman of his mailbag in broad daylight.
"If people have to wait all day for you, why don't they get a robot? I'm gonna blow your brains out!"
There was some mechanical plot necessity for this, but it escapes me now and, what's funny is, it doesn't matter. We drew it up as a gag the way Dali and Buñuel did and it works without figuring in the plot, because of the film's generally chaotic progression and because it's funny.
Juan Roman doesn't know what's going on, and you, the viewer, are right there with him.
After the film was shot and edited, there was a great striving to demarcate what was dream from present reality, what was flashback from dream, and so forth, by the use of voiceover.
It did not work, but it did little harm as the three states of mind flow seamlessly into one another in spite of the attempt to erect boundaries around each.
The scribe made a rare compromise for those days, drafting the voice-over during post-production, but only because he lacked an argument, had not moved to Spain, and had not read Calderon's "Life is a Dream."
What is life?
A frenetic race.
What is life?
An illusion, a shadow, a fiction
the largest good small
all life is dream and
dreams are what dreams are.
"Eve" is a radical and wide ranging work that addresses racism, the anomie of Los Angeles, Biblical heresy, and our passions as a group at the time: anarchism, intra-realism, sex, philosophy, pacifism, environmentalism, communism, drugs and dream states, hallucination and, did I mention drugs?
It was the height of all that Nancy Reagan "Just Say No" pap, and enough to make any self-respecting intra-realist gag.
The inner cupola worshipped de Sade, from whose work all the cult members' names are derived (Franval, Dash, Madame Mistival, Dolmance). The film lifted scenes straight out of George Bataille's "Story of the Eye," (pictured) and sampled Eric Satie's "First Gnossienne."
Poetess Yvonne de la Vega lent her adaptation of that work - "Many Loves" she called it - as well as an original slice, "Bad Boys," which was employed in a scene where Terése rapes Juan Roman.
Sultry Yvonne performed "Many Loves" during the party scene, which we made by throwing a bash and filming ourselves behaving badly, something we were all quite good at. This was the spirit behind the film. Your years of misspent youth were not wasted at all. Players were needed to portray a church of pleasure! Free beer!
The soundtrack was composed by Don Preston, an original member of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, and his wife Tina thrilled us with her interpretation of Mrs. Camper. Their availability and enthusiasm for the project stood as tribute to the depth and width of L.A.'s artistic rank-and-file. Back then, at least.
More than anything, watching "Believe in Eve" now is a deeply personal gift. Not everyone gets to see their youth, what is to say, their friends, lovers, enemies, co-creators, ideas, fashion and, yes, fresh faces, frozen in time, theatrically treated, and presented in the most literary of lights.
For the scribe, the scene of Brenda Lee and Juan Roman walking through the Los Angeles barrio, as Alex Sellar reads a poem from the script to sprightly flamenco music, is a keepsake like no other. Many poems are published. Few are produced and mounted with the glue of music and image.
Brenda Lee Underwood
If I could only catch her
sheet of bright breeze
If I could only manage a smile
for every mile of Loveworld
she lived in.
twice as nice,
something to count on
something taken for granted
Leave your wildflower in the wind
and see it be supplanted.
The scene is as lilting as the afternoon it was shot. Javier and DP Juan Carlos Ferro did naught but set a camera up at a street light west of McArthur Park and have Monique and Alex walk through the barrio, toward it. The day was devoid of the usual headaches associated with filming. It was lock, load and shoot. Ian McColl had come to watch the process and wound up playing, with all originality, the drug dealer who briefly accosts them.
The sun set on cue, an Indian woman walked into frame with a tropical plant on her head, and the city blossomed around the lovers as they crossed the urban landscape, establishing an intimacy no amount of dialogue could have duplicated.
Elegant Mob Films endures as a maker of a dozen beautiful documentaries of radical and social cast. It is run by the director of "Believe in Eve" the aforementioned Javier Gomez Serrano, who has put up a link to "Believe in Eve" for all to enjoy. "Believe in Eve"