Monday, April 16, 2007

Jon Moritsugu's FAME WHORE available for rent on DVD at Potomac Video in Chevy Chase DC :: Review

For all you DC area readers: my favorite video store - Potomac Video near Chevy Chase Circle in DC - now has DIY/real indie filmmaker Jon Moritsugu's excellent & accessible flick Fame Whore for rent on DVD. Here's the link to the store. Below is the review of the film that I wrote & published in this blog last year.

FAME WHORE Review

Review originally published 9/27/06

Jon Moritsugu's 1997 comedy-drama Fame Whore (due out soon on DVD) tells 3 stories: 1) about a tennis pro, #1 in the world - as he often tells everyone, or rather yells at everyone, one of the most annoying characters in cinema, and the turn his wealthy & successful life takes when a French newspaper outs him as being gay, 2) about an artist with very little talent, with I would say anti-talent, for singing attempting to master & create careers in music, video, photography, film and several other mediums of expression, played well & hilariously by Amy Davis, 3) about a lonely & friendless & sweet dog pound manager who has an imaginary friend who is a six foot tall talking dog with bad manners.

The tennis pro & the multi-media artist characters, their situations, are complex & interesting. Why is the tennis pro dude so ill behaved? Is it all a hopelessly misguided attempt to appear straight? Does he think cursing & fighting & insulting people are the most significant & defining qualities of straight men? The multi-media artist trying to go pro - what's driving her? I guess she is wealthy - even though the film did not state how she came about her wealth, some reviews of the film have said that she is a trust fund kid - but she does seem concerned with making money. Perhaps, other than the possible financial motive, she needs validation from the world & she is trying to get it through mastering & becoming famous for art making. Underneath their desire for fame & wealth, both characters seem to want acceptance, and they seem to expect that their mastery of a sport or hoped for mastery of art/entertainment making will bring that much craved acceptance to them.

Having the story of the dog pound manager in the flick was a good move on Moritsugu's part, as it helps the audience see the situations of the other two characters in a different light, in a slightly more sympathetic light, as in: pity the fools. The dog pound manager is running away from contact with the public, that is contact other than that required by his job. He seems to take pleasure in his job - finding homes for unwanted dogs. He is unnerved when the city decides to get him an assistant.

Is Moritsugu saying that happiness or at least contentment need not depend on fame & public adoration or in making very much money? Perhaps. Maybe all it takes to be happy, as the old saying goes, is doing what you love. While there may be little hope in the tennis star & the artist finding happiness, the dog pound manager's life seems healthier by comparison. This theme, of fame through art & worldly success not necessarily being the ideal path for some characters who desperately crave one or the other is repeated & further explored in Moritsugu's 2003 film Scumrock.

The trouble with fame & wealth is that there is almost always more to be had, and perhaps not having that next level will make a person who wants it miserable. On the other hand, doing something you love and hopefully doing it well is an objective with solid, fixed boundaries.
It would be easier to achieve happiness & contentment if your goal is to do something well because you love doing it, as opposed to doing something so that you can get famous & wealthy. Of course what I just said may not have much to do with the film, but it is related to the topic of desiring fame, so there it is. It also reflects the 80's DIY punk approach to music making (see the new doc American Hardcore (MySpace) for more on that approach), which is a scene that Moritsugu has acknowledged as being a source of inspiration & a model for his filmmaking career.

Fame Whore being a Moritsugu film, I was expecting out of focus shots, jarring editing, shots that linger too long on seemingly unnecessary objects and a noisy sound track. But I was pleasantly surprised: Fame Whore looks and sounds, for the most part, like most other low budget indie flicks, indiewood flicks as opposed to underground flicks, of the 90's or even some low budget Hollywood flicks for that matter. Fame Whore does not look or sound like Scumrock or Mod Fuck Explosion. So, this would be a safe film, out of Moritsugu's body of work, to show to friends who are alienated by non-slick, radically non-Hollywood looking flicks. It will be obvious that Fame Whore is a low budget flick, but it also contains the "correct" type of craftsmanship that most mainstream audience members seem to expect from movies.

At 70 minutes, Fame Whore tells its 3 stories rather quickly, but it does not seem rushed. Also, the film is a model for how a lot can be done with little: I believe only 3 interior locations were used during the whole movie. But the careful use of the interior locations along with the good use of exterior locations has allowed the filmmakers to create a work that is not too limited by its low budget & the accompanying restrictions on using a lot of locations.

If you've been wanting to discover new (or at least new to you) filmmakers, specially real indie filmmakers who are pioneers of, or role models for, the US DIY film movement, then Fame Whore can be an easy & entertaining introduction to Jon Moritsugu. Fame Whore is highly recommended for indie film fans & indie film makers. Also recommended for anyone who thinks that their lives would be better if they were more famous.

According to this interview with Moritsugu, Fame Whore was considered by the Academy for Oscar competition, but was ultimately disqualified since it was projected using 16 MM as opposed to 35 MM, the Academy standard.

- Sujewa

4 comments:

Brian L said...

Thanks for that writeup. I'm now intrigued.

The Sujewa said...

No problem Brian, glad to share.

- Sujewa

Jacky Treehorn said...

SE,

well-covered review. sick as a dog these days but would love to see Fame Whore..??

Thanks,

JB

The Sujewa said...

Hope ya feel better soon JB!

You should be able to buy the Fame Whore DVD through Jon's site at some point very soon - w/ in the next few days even.

- Sujewa

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