Thursday, August 27, 2009

My family on film

Two summers ago, I spent a long, sweaty August day in a Mexican restaurant in a hotel in Lockhart, Texas as an extra in Andrew Bujalski's latest film, Beeswax, which was then without a title. It's finally coming out soon, so the back of my head as I eat a cold taco that had been sitting out all day may or may not appear in a theater near you this fall. I was paid in barbecue that day, but it was really good barbecue, and the twin sisters playing the lead characters were very nice people. I also got free drinks for four hours at a downtown bar for the wrap party a few weeks later. Not counting the time my mother took me to the huge rock formations, Courthouse and Jail Rock, outside of my hometown to see a Kenny Rogers TV movie being filmed (I was two, I remember none of this) (maybe I dreamed this?), or the times I drove by the sets and/or on-the-street location filming of Death Proof, The Wendell Baker Story, and the remake of Friday the 13th, and also not counting the zombie movies and crime epic The Revenge of Barney Hoov I made on my parents' Camcorder, it was my only experience with the actual making of a film. I found it simultaneously interesting as hell and boring as bejesus. Anyway, my brother and mother beat me onto celluloid by a couple of decades. Back in the mid-1980s, one of the two family doctors in my hometown was a Vietnamese immigrant who'd escaped from Saigon. A documentary film crew came to my tiny hometown to shoot a segment on him for a film about immigrants in the U.S. that would eventually be shown on HBO. When they filmed him at his office, my sick little brother was his patient. My mom and brother got in the documentary, someone taped it for us when it was on HBO (my father's simultaneous love of television and paranoid fear of elusive yet constantly hovering economic disaster were at cross purposes, so the compromise was basic cable only, which meant no HBO), we watched the VHS dub, my mother complained in mild horror about how she looked on camera, and then we mostly forgot about it.
Fast forward to tonight, 2009!
I was watching the 1986 Louis Malle documentary ...And the Pursuit of Happiness on DVD tonight. It's a part of the Criterion Collection spin-off Eclipse, which presents bare-bones, economic DVDs of ultra-rare films by major directors. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to see my then-30-year-old mother and my wee little brother in the film. This was the forgotten HBO documentary! And Louis fuckin' Malle made it! Besides the thrill of seeing 23 years younger versions of my mother and brother on a Criterion Collection DVD, it was also exciting, hilarious, and slightly melancholy to see my shit-kickin', teeny-tiny Nebraska hometown beautifully shot and framed and cinematographed (not a real word) by a respected French filmmaker. Here's a picture I took of my bro and mom's scene:


Spacebeer said...

This was so fun to see -- and the Bridgeport section was one of the longest vignettes in the film, so Louis Malle must have liked the town. The whole thing is really good, by the way, if folks are interested in seeing it but don't particularly care about B-port or Nick.

Anonymous said...

I hear Malle's next project is a documentary of the haircuts of Nicholas Krauter.

Plop Blop said...

Yeah, Louis is also making a documentary about my pink Miami Vice jacket I had. I'm seriously kind of weirded out by this whole thing, not in a bad way, just in a "that's so f'ing weird" kind of way.

Mary P. said...

I'd recognize that little disgruntled face any day!

Russ said...

Your ma & bro were in a film that was directed by the same guy as 'Elevator to the Gallows'. You guys better scoop up some copies of the DVD before it goes out of print again.

- Russ

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