Monday, December 06, 2004

DVD: Vampyros Lesbos (1971)

Honestly, I thought this movie was about something else.

TV: The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004)

Yet another film about a talented individual who turns out to be a bastard in real life. Is anyone surprised by such revelations any more? Rule of thumb: content, well-adjusted geniuses don’t get biopics.

To complicate matters, this HBO production is built around the notion that Sellers is the Oakland of thespians. There’s no there there. As the man himself said, “I did have a personality, but I had it surgically removed.” It’s an idea that’s fascinating to contemplate, but not to watch played out on screen for over 2 hours.

The conceit does give rise to some surface cleverness, like having Geoffrey Rush as Sellers play every other character in Sellers’ life: his parents, his wife, Stanley Kubrick, Blake Edwards. The only problem is that the insights Sellers offers in these guises aren’t particularly, you know, insightful.

Besides, a brief post-credit sequence encapsulates the movie’s message perfectly. The camera reveals that the film we’ve just seen was directed by Sellers himself. He shrugs disarmingly in a best-that-I-could-do way, then strolls through the props from his life to his trailer. The camera moves to follow, but Sellers bars the way. “Sorry,” he says. “You can’t come in here.” He closes the door on us. That’s all you need to know, and it only takes thirty seconds.

The movie is worth watching for the great production design and for the acting. Rush is phenomenal as Sellers. Wearing the actor’s distinctive glasses goes a long way to completing the illusion. But through subtle make-up effects, Rush resembles Sellers even without the specs. It’s an uncanny performance.

Miscellaneous: Link

Blogging at Ed Gorman’s site, Terrill Lankford reports from the 30th anniversary screening of CHINATOWN and offers a wonderful reminiscence of that film’s cinematographer, the great John Alonzo.