Wed. Aug 15. 2007
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 and I had to walk down the aisle of the nearly empty theater and do the Q&A for 15 people.
The next day I got on the subway and headed down to 60th street for a radio interview. I walked past the theater at 62nd and Broadway where Delirious was opening later in the day. In the Now Playing window was a poster for Michael Moore’s Sicko.
I went inside and asked to speak to the manager. With not a little reluctance and belligerence he agreed to replace the Michael Moore poster with one for Delirious.
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 “angry” with a distribution system that has occasionally fumbled with my films. Let me ask you this: what would you have done in my place today? Stretched out on the couch and smoked a double-wide doobie? 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 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. There is no money to soften the blows with even a modest ad campaign to promote the film. 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 reviews. Or don’t come to the movie based on the reviews. 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 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 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 after the NY Times trashed it. Living In Oblivion got a good review in the Times but nationally Siskell and Ebert 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 and sit on your indie lover’s lap.
The one review that almost made me laugh was from a guy who again took issue at something other people have said about me. He was furious that people dared to refer to me as a “cult director” and vehemently denied I had any right to that credit. He went on further 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. I knew a guy behind the meat counter of the corner 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.