Friday, August 27, 2010
Black & White Friday: Gypsy 83
Perhaps a strange film to use for this series, but I'll explain way. Todd Stephen's 2001 film is an absolute stunner due to the power of its cast and the vision that is presented on screen. It's hardly the most radical of films and follows a very routine small-town-freaks-head-to-the-big-city-and-meet-crazy-characters-along-the-way plot (it's a sub-genre, okay!), but there's something so touching about the leads Sara Rue and Kett Turton together and the way the film feels truly independent and like it's set out to be its own magical beast. It never wants to settle for being the same old, despite it's familiar material. I appreciate that above mere ho-hum dialogue.
I decided to use it for the series, however, because spread through the movie are these black and white intervals filmed on an old handheld camera owned by the character of "Clive". It was this shot above that really made me wonder what the entire film might have looked like if filmed this way like an ultra-cheap underground movie made in the late '70s/early '80s in New York City by artists who live in apartments with no running water and who work in dead-end jobs Monday to Friday just to finance their art projects.
This seems like something underground filmmakers would do - set social "freaks" and "perverts" loose in a cemetery. Don't you think?
This looks more like a shot from a Divinyls video from 1990.
One thing that intrigued me about this movie what what year it was set. I know it was set in 2001 (the year it was released), but there are many moments like this that made me think it was set in the 1990s (this set looks just like a Curve video or somethin') and the 1980s (since the two lead characters look like they never left). But going with our theme of underground cinema, this does sorta look like the sorta "it's-a-set-but-not-a-set" those filmmakers may have come up with.
Karen Black terrifies me. Not just in this movie, but in general.
We all know the sort of underground indie films of the period were not shy about sex, particularly that that was deemed immoral or lewd, so I think some gay sex is more than expected. Of course, in Gypsy 83 the gay seduction is played so fantasy-like that it's one of the few moments that actually feels false, but it's still played so genuinely that I couldn't help but grin.
This was perhaps my favourite scene of the movie, as Clive puts on a show to The Cure's ace "Doing the Unstuck". The black and white feels quite appropriate.
I feel like this shot almost looks like a John Waters movie. No, Sara Rue doesn't look like Divine, but he is obviously drawn to less traditional images of beauty, isn't he? And the horrified expressions on their face just top that off.
This is a wonderful shot as they pass through the tunnel from New Jersey into Manhattan. The roughness of the photography and the high contrast of the whites and blacks do evoke those films from the underground movement that were shot on the fly and did whatever they needed to get a shot even if it wasn't perfect. It's a shot that feels so authentic.
Fittingly, I am finishing on a shot of New York City, this film's spiritual home. This whole idea of underground NYC cinema has been taken from the little of it that I gleaned from Celine Danhier's documentary Black City. Films that used New York in its most street-level natural form. I wish director Todd Stephens had spent a little less time on the road and little more time in New York City since I can only imagine what sort of images, dripping with nostalgia, he could have put up. Budgetary constraints, I imagine, stopped that from happening, but it's still nice to imagine.