Tuesday, 7 December 2010

In the Electric Mist and a Bunch of Amateurs

It is possible to experience life through films but it is a sad life experiencing the emotions of other rather than ones own. Such can also be the life of the actor, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II attended a special premier of a Bunch of Amateurs and so enjoyed the production as did her husband that it was one of the films selected for the family showing over the following Christmas.

I found nothing funny about the film which says more about me than the Royals. Burt Reynolds plays an established aging Hollywood actor who is no longer being offered parts and berates his aging agent for this failure. He has strained relations with his daughter who is also in the acting business and is about to make the potential mistake of her life thinking she has landed a good part only to find it is for a sex movie. Daddy was right which is also worse than daddy being wrong.

The agent has been approached by an amateur theatre company based in a village in a Suffolk village who ambitiously are putting on a production of King Lear. Of course the idea of village production putting on such a play is ludicrous or that they would seek the attention of an Hollywood star through his agent is equally stupefying, or that the gaining actor, however desperate would sign a contract without realising the production company was 100 miles from the Stratford on Avon Shakespeare. There are some clever jokes which does nor surprise when one of the script writers in the Private Eye famous Ian Hislop. Some jokes are clever but of the kind that leads me to belly laugh.

Burt is housed in a the home of one of the cast played by Imelda Staunton while his driver, director and general organiser is played by Samantha Bond with whom he eventually has a relationship, despite the ridicule and abuse he gives her throughout this light hearted entertainment. Derek Jacobi is one of the great British Actors who made himself a household name with his role of I Claudius. He plays the village actor who would have been allocated title role before the involvement of the Hollywood Lothario. All progresses in the story as one would expect until Reynolds employs the wife of the local businessman sponsor as a masseuse, she is a professional sports physio and a session in his room is interpreted by his hostess as confirming his reputation as chases anything that moves in a skirt. She fancies Reynolds and expresses her disappointment and frustration at what she thinks has happened to the would be Lear, Jacobi, who leaks the story to the media that resulting in the local backer removing his financial support.

At this point it is Reynolds who hits on the way for an alternative source of funds by all the women of the village claiming to have had a relationship with Reynolds and telling their story to the media for appropriate price. With the funds and the village learning the truth Reynolds stays and the production is hailed as a great success and transferred to a west end theatre with Reynolds getting rave notices of his life and reconciling with his daughter. It is you see a harmless light hearted fairy tale,

A couple of years ago Charles and Camilla pulled out of the last Royal Command Performance film Brick Lane claiming a clash of diary engagements although the media viewpoint was that the Palace had concluded the subject too politically sensitive.

A more interesting film viewed on December 7th film also involved a Hollywood actor and film making. However In the Electric Mist is a very different kind of story which was never released to film theatres in the USA. The subject matter is familiar big business cover up of the slaughter of a negro man because of an affair with a white woman and the brutal slaying of young women, some prostitutes or picks up itinerants.

The always excellent Tommy Lee Jones plays detective in outback Louisiana is investigating the brutal murder of one such woman when he comes across Peter Sarsgaard as the Hollywood actor drunk and on drugs in charge of a flash DeLoreon type sports car. In order to avoid jail he provides the Detective with the whereabouts of a decayed body found in the swamps, found presumably while filming or out fishing. The remains are of a black man in chains but without belt or shoes and reminded the Detective of a seen he witnessed as a boy in the same area when a chained negro man was shot by two white men as he attempted to run away. No one is interested in what appears to have been a racist killing several decades

The local man suspected of running girls is played by John Goodman and was once a friend of Tommy Lee whose life he also once saved. Now the man is surrounded by loose moral women and thugs and the suggestion he is part of or leads the local criminal fraternity. Goodman claims to a film producer of the film employing the Actor star so Tommy Lee visits the film making and learns that while Goodman has contributed funds and will appear on the credits that is his only involvement. Lee is married with a daughter who presses her father for an autograph or signed poster of the actor. This interest and the decisions taken result in the actor and his stable girlfriend commencing to call at the family waterfront homestead where they hire out boats, fishing tackle and cold beer as a career money making sideline.

Lee Jones is a recovering alcoholic, admitted at the start of the film and AA member and he is joined by a female Mexican FBI agent who is also interested as Goodman and his Mafia links and a string of murders of prostitutes and runaways. Their combined investigatory activities result in first Lee Jones being set up to have killed an unarmed prostitute where fortunately the evidence points to a death long before the shooting incident and then Jones has his soft drinks spiked with LSD when attending a garden party barbecue given by a well known local businessman also attended by the Goodman character and his associates. At the gate to the estate Le Jones recognises a former police detective who is in charge of security and when he finds that the original local murdered girl had been arrested for prostitution by the former police his suspicions about the man are aroused. He motors home in a drug induced stupor as it appears the soft drinks have been spiked, Worse is to come when the film actor insists on going fishing prior to an immediate rain storm and then requires help when the boat becomes snagged. While on board Lee Jones gives his coat to the already soaked girlfriend of the actor and she is then shot to death. This prompts the actor to give up alcohol and Lee Jones becomes his monitor in contrition for being the precipitating cause of the death of the young woman.

Jones is convinced that the murderer is the former police detective and beating up a man he finds recruiting the girls he begin to amass the evidence, especially when someone who has provided information is found dead on what appears to be a suicide but then finds out the man had discovered the connection between the former police and the murdered girl, and is also subsequently shown a photo of the murdered girl together with Goodman and the former detective.

Lee ensures that a knife used is the killing is not hidden by breaking into the office and taking it to the home of the suspect. The man is then given bail and manages to kidnap the detective’s daughter wanting the knife to be returned. Lee Jones then beats up Goodman to force him to reveal where his daughter may have been taken and eventually admits the man has a secret camp site where he is shot dead by the FBI agent thinking the man had a gun when it was rolled up magazine. Lee Jones places a gun in the man‘s hand instead.

Working out original complex plots which stand the test of a second viewing or follow up consideration is always a challenge. This film fails on so many accounts The story is based on a novel called In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead. The film being made is about the confederacy and Jones has several visions in which he sees a General, General John Bell Hood who looks like a deceased relative. The film is described as a drama fantasy. I thought it was neither. How much this is the fault of the original film or creating a 90-120 minute movie entertainment remain a question?

Lee Jones also visits the owner of the local Sugar Mill who is the wealthy business man whose barbecue party he attended. He accuses him of being the man who with the former police officer killed the black man whose crime had been to have an affair with the brother of the Sugar Mill owner. He had carried out the murder for his brother who was restricted to a wheel chair. The man argues that he and the south with the former attitudes have change. Lee questions this and rejects the plea to leave the past buried. I suspect the idea of the film was to portray the reality of crime, punishment and law enforcement in the south over recent decades. In this it may have succeeded.

It has been another less than day although by luck I noted a programme on BBC TV about the Darkness at the Edge of Town Album of Bruce Springsteen. I will play the album tomorrow which reminds that in the new I will begin to transfer the tapes to CD before the long Play records. I live my life more in the past than the present

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