Wed. Aug 15. 2007
It’s 9:22 pm on a sticky, sultry night in NYC. I feel like someone who fell overboard 6 years ago and is just finally crawling ashore on some unknown island. At this very moment Delirious is unspooling in two theaters in Manhattan. I don’t know if anybody is actually in those theaters but the irrefutable fact is, the film is showing.
It is only now starting to dawn on me where I’ve been for the past 6 years. I’ve been in Siberia. I’ve been in outer space. I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name and still have to say that’s about the stupidest song ever written. My conviction to get the film made by any means necessary has taken me to some pretty lonely and desolate places. Now I’m back and I feel like a half-crazed alien, returned to the wrong planet. Jeezus, Tom—take it easy. That’s a little too many existentialistic angst metaphors for two fucking paragraphs.
Let’s return to reality. Delirious had its final word-of-mouth screening last night at the Angelika Theater on Houston Street. The Q&A afterwards was to be the last one for the film and I was really looking forward to it. Jane and I arrived a few minutes before the film ended. I peered in and was thrilled to see the place was packed. Then the lights came up and to my astonishment the entire audience got up and left. They had to walk past me on the way out, some of them knocking me against the wall as they exited. Apparently no one had informed them I was coming.
The theater manager grabbed a microphone and made a hurried announcement but by that time it was too late. I remember punching a cardboard cutout of Jackie Chan and sending it flying into the Women’s bathroom where some girl screamed thinking it was a pervert running in to peek under her stall. So, I had to calm down and walk down the aisle of the nearly empty theater and do the Q&A. Truthfully, I’m glad I did. The 15 people that did stay liked the film very much and engaged me in a very intimate and stimulating discussion (see Kevin Avery’s blog Mere Words –he was one of group that stayed).
But, I didn’t sleep too well that night. I lay awake seeing that rush of people flooding out of the theater right in front of me. Over and over again I kept trying to grab them and ask them to stop. I got up around 7 and as I was drinking my coffee my back went out. The telephone apology I got from the event organizer at 8:30 didn’t do too much to loosen me up. At 11:30 I got on the subway and headed down to 60th street for an interview with Bob Edwards on XM Public Radio. Arriving a little early I decided to walk up to the theater at 62nd and Broadway where Delirious is opening today. I was quite pleased to see the film title spelled out on the marquee. But, something caught my eye and prompted a sharp surge of panic. In the window the only poster displayed was one for Michael Moore’s Sicko.
I instantly got on the phone and made the arrangements to replace it with one for Delirious. If I hadn’t chose to walk by the theater on a whim, people coming to the theater tonight would have been completely confused as to what movie was playing there.
What’s my point? A profile of me in the NY Times this week referred to me as an “auteur with a short fuse” because I get so “angry” with a distribution system that has occasionally fumbled the ball with my films. Well, let me ask you this: what would you have done in my place today? Popped a cold one, stretched out on the couch, smoked a double-wide doobie and laughed until the drool was running down your neck? Hey, I was tempted. But, why single me out as the independent hothead? I appreciate the compliment but every independent director I know fights just as passionately for their films as I do. I once saw Jim Jarmusch beat a distributor with his own crutch for spelling his name wrong.
I will admit to being a little touchy; especially today. Part of the trauma has been the arrival, one by one, of the Reviews. I say trauma because no matter how you steel yourself there’s a part of you that knows without a doubt that a good review will help you; and a bad review will hurt you–especially on a low-budget movie like this. We don’t have the money to soften the blows with a massive ad campaign with billboards and national TV ads like Rush Hour 527. Sure, I’m proud of the film and I know that my assessment of its value should come solely from within me. But, people read the reviews. People come to the movie based on the review. Or don’t come to the movie based on the review. And, if they don’t come to the movie, they don’t show the movie no more.
The good news is that the press has been very positive. Most encouraging was the strong response from the New York dailies like the Post, Newsday and the Daily News. They each gave Delirious 3 stars. There has even been support from some of the weekly magazines. David Denby in The New Yorker made some observations that I found surprising and highly informative. Similarly Stephen Holden in The NY Times gave real credibility to the film’s themes and ideas. But here is where it gets interesting–those who like the film like it very much. Those who don’t like it take a bewildering delight in not only tearing it to shreds but trashing me as well.
One guy wrote, “Tom DiCillo, one-time indie darling…” First of all, when the fuck was I an indie darling? And second, what is an indie darling? What do darlings get that is supposed to be so great because I’d sure like to have a little snort of it. My first film Johnny Suede opened in NYC and played for one week. The NY Times trashed it. Living In Oblivion got a good review in the Times but The New Yorker trashed it. Siskell and Ebert, the original digit critics, gave it two thumbs down. As a result, it died theatrically. Was that the “indie darling” part? Because when Box Of Moonlight came out 2 years later I got the worst reviews of my career. The film played a week in a few cities. I made The Real Blonde; it got trashed. I made Double Whammy; it never got released and it still got trashed. So yeah, darling, come on over here little honey and sit on daddy’s lap.
The one review that actually makes me laugh is from a convicted pedophile and small animal abuser who was relocated to his online post recently by his church’s superiors. He again takes issue at something other people have said about me. He is furious that people dare refer to me as a “cult director” and vehemently denies I have any right to that credit. Hey, chill out, dude; smoke a doobie; double-wide. I agree with you. I’m not a cult director. I’ve never said that about myself and I’d never want to. But that doesn’t stop my furry-minded friend from going on to disembowel Delirious and me, concluding with this mind-boggling statement: “Any critic who likes this movie is wrong.”
Wow. You’ve got to scratch your balls at that one. Not too near him though. This guy has an opinion. Fine. I knew a guy behind the meat counter of a deli that saw every single independent film that came to NY. He knew more about film than anybody I’ve ever met and he got fired for talking about it when he should’ve been slicing pastrami. I’ll grant anyone the right to their opinion. But, to tell other people, including other critics they are wrong if they disagree? That’s not criticism. It’s journalistic terrorism.
But, as Jane keeps telling me—I made the film. That is the real victory. I made the film. And whether you can tell it or not, I’m ecstatic–like a father with a newborn.
More fun to follow.