Thanks for the Use of the Hall - Archive

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Name: Dan Sallitt
Location: New York, New York, United States

Friday, May 2, 2008

Breakfast of Champions: Anthology Film Archives, May 3, 6, and 8, 2008

Alan Rudolph’s little-seen 1999 adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel received what might be charitably called mixed reviews. Rudolph has always been attracted to the grotesque, and here he dedicates himself to that principle without reserve, stylizing all his performers - Bruce Willis as a suicidal small-town used-car dealer, Nick Nolte as his cross-dressing boss, Albert Finney as writer/philosopher/bum Kilgore Trout - to the brink of parody. It seems like a formula for disaster, but Rudolph has a talent for keeping his eye on the serious emotions latent in absurd situations. And here he seemed more immersed in his material than he had in years, more willing to stand behind the curtain and let his clownish characters stumble toward their epiphanies under their own steam.

Breakfast was originally a Robert Altman project: Rudolph adapted it for him in the 70s, writing the script in eight days between drafts of Buffalo Bill and the Indians. After the Altman film fell through, the script was Rudolph’s dream project for years, and was finally realized thanks to Willis’ patronage, and presumably also to the success of Rudolph’s previous film, 1998’s Afterglow. (Willis does not get enough credit for the many eccentric projects to which he lent his bankable name.)

It screens at Anthology Film Archives as part of a series programmed by French critic/filmmaker Luc Moullet: on Saturday, May 3 at 9 pm; Tuesday, May 6 at 7 pm; and Thursday, May 8 at 9 pm. It’s hard to imagine the film ever finding too large an audience, but maybe it’s inching its way toward cult status.



Blogger Vadim said...

The number of weird projects Willis has cheerfully gone along with is pretty impressive: TWELVE MONKEYS, M. Night Shyamalan when he was untested, cameos for the uncommercial projects of Andrew Fleming and the Polish brothers. Tom Cruise also doesn't get any credit for the number of completely unrealistic projects he's worked on: I'm pretty sure without him there wouldn't be the three-hour clusterfuck of MAGNOLIA or the bizarre VANILLA SKY.

May 3, 2008 3:04 PM  
Blogger Vadim said...

Oh, another actor who will always be on my good side, regardless of his problems with domestic abuse and tax fraud: Wesley Snipes, who point-blank refused to do any reshoots on UNDISPUTED to make his character more sympathetic, helping Walter Hill out immensely.

May 3, 2008 3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also like BREAKFAST quite a bit; but you did not mention Omar Epps as "Wayne Hoobler" (his amazing Dwayne Hoover business cards w/ the letters discreetly crossed out), whom I thought threatened to steal the picture.


May 3, 2008 4:08 PM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Vadim - yeah, Tom Cruise has helped out a lot of offbeat projects. So has Johnny Depp, who actually does get credit for it, but I'm happy to give him more.

I never heard that story about Snipes - that's great. Making a few movies made me realize that actors are the collaborators who are most likely to participate in a project for artistic reasons (as opposed to career reasons).

Jaime - there are a lot of things I didn't mention about Champions! My memory will be refreshed after this week's screenings.

May 3, 2008 4:32 PM  
Anonymous Mike Grost said...

The little Alan Rudolph seen here is uneven. "The Moderns" seemed like a film with good script and characters. But "Equinox" and "Afterglow" just seemed boring and pointless.
What are we missing? Are you making a claim for Rudlph as a filmmaker with a large series of good works?

May 3, 2008 4:40 PM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Mike - I wrote a 40-page monograph on Rudolph back in 1985 that never got published. I should really scan it one of these days and put it online. Here are pages one and two of an abridged version of the monograph that the Toronto Festival of Festivals used that same year. Apologies for the tone, which is a bit more brash than I'm now comfortable with.

On the whole, I still favor Rudolph's early work: Welcome to L.A., Choose Me, and especially Remember My Name. After the success of Choose Me his films became a bit more self-conscious and self-contained. Breakfast of Champions is probably my favorite post-1984 Rudolph, but I also like The Moderns, Equinox, Love at Large.

May 5, 2008 11:22 PM  
Blogger David C said...

I'm just crazy about Trouble In Mind, personally. I love Choose Me, The Moderns, am quite keen on Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle.

Breakfast of Champions struck me as a bold misfire, but maybe I'm too fond of the book. I liked Afterglow.

I have a copy of The Sex Lives on Dentists waiting to be watched.

I wouldn't say A.R. has a large body of great films, but he's a very recognisable voice and when he gets it right he's really good.

May 6, 2008 7:12 PM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

David - it's great that the guy has made as many films as he has, because I don't think a lot of them were successes. He used to be very economical, probably still is.

The last one, Dentists, probably made money - it lingered in theaters a long time. He hasn't made anything in a few years, though.

Of the ones that haven't been mentioned, I think Mortal Thoughts is rather good - it's probably my favorite of the films that he directed but didn't write.

May 7, 2008 8:07 AM  

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