Monday, November 9, 2015

What's the Difference?

Richmond was even cooler than usual tonight.

That's because the Bijou was hosting the premiere of "Entertainment," Richmonder and director Rick Alverson's latest movie, at the Byrd Theater. It was yet another well-chosen fundraiser on the Bijou Film Center's cinematic path to their own building.

Any way you look at it, it was a big deal for us to get the film shown here before it premieres in New York City. How big? So big that even headline hog Joe Morrissey and his baby mama got a babysitter and showed up for it.

As did more DJs and musicians than you could shake a stick at, plus curators, wine geeks, servers and photographers I knew.

Alverson doesn't make easy movies, but Richmond is enough of a film town at this point to nearly fill up the Byrd with enthusiasts happy to check their expectations at the door (as Bijou co-founder Terry Rea suggested) for a surreal take on one man making a life - just barely - as a comedian.

Not that much is funny beyond his screechy, nasal voice, and certainly not his material. "What's the difference between Courtney Love and the American flag? You can't urinate on the flag." See what I mean? Princess Di jokes and Crosby, Stills and Nash gang-banging jokes weren't any funnier.

But that was the point.

Watching this hapless man trek through the desert on his way to one seedy bar, jail or community center after another, we see him underwhelm audiences (except maybe his cousin, played by John C. Reilly), leave desultory messages on his daughter's answering machine almost daily and explore the monochromatic landscape.

And by explore, I mean go on a tour of an oil field, inspect the rusting remains of an overturned vehicle, visit an airplane graveyard or assist a woman in a public bathroom give birth. It's hard not to appreciate how determinedly anti-Hollywood Alverson's movies are.

There was a restlessness to tonight's audience or perhaps that was just the sounds of people being made uncomfortable by a story unlike any they'd seen before. Watching the comedian navigate his sad and lonely life before losing it completely at a celebrity party was challenging at times, but challenging in the best possible way.

That only made seeing it more compelling, because chances are, this is one that'll end up a cult classic. Watching human despair is not your typical movie-going experience but sometimes, it's moving to be exposed to that for the sake of a truly different film.

If scoring the premiere of an important up and coming director's work and exposing Richmond film fans to a true indie movie (there are no gimmes or easy answers in this one) is what the Bijou Film Center will be all about, Richmond's film-loving set ought to be wishing they were doing a fundraiser a month until they get their building.

In the meantime, we should be bragging to any and all NYC friends about what we saw in Richmond tonight. We were entertained and challenged by one of our own.

No joke.

1 comment:

  1. Hey! Rick still lives here! Not a former resident! Church Hill y'all!