Saturday, November 13, 2004

Wasted on the Sidewalk


Cisco Pike is the unlucky döppelganger of the character that John Phillips plays on his The Wolf King of L.A. LP—but where the Wolf King is safe in his garden (“things are cooler in my castle”), having made his millions in ’68-’70, Cisco left the Sunset Strip too early. In a gesture of economic tough love, his old friend at the pawn shop refuses to buy his guitar (and certainly Cisco displays more love for songwriting than the likewise pharmaceuticalized Maury Dann), but this particular yearning is eventually discarded as a plot point. When Cisco goes back to the Troubadour, it’s not to play a gig, but to sell drugs while some Jesse Winchesterian bozo warbles over the p.a. In fact, it’s probably Cisco that the Wolf King is meeting when he parks his car in Topanga. We see Cisco dealing not just on hoods of cars, but in recording studios (to Allan Arbus and Doug Sahm, on movie sets, and on tennis courts. Malibu people really know how to live, so of course Cisco instead lives in Venice, in a weird space that looks like it was built by a destitute M.C. Escher, and that apparently promotes nothing so much as painting and conducting singalongs. Even the hypermotivated Gene Hackman is reduced to literally running in place upon entrance. Oh well, at least Cisco has Karen Black in his bed, and H. D. Stanton nodding off in his tub.


Floyd Mutrux clears his throat! The Christian Licorice Store opens with a party scene: “Tony Curtis is a friend of ours” over the sound of giggling, talking, and clinking glasses. Set stone tiles, carpeted stairways, stained glass, dark oak, greenery all around the front path, and gold drapes. Monte Hellman’s there, too, but we can leave all this for the screening room, where they’ll roll the opening credits.

Here’s how the first half of the movie goes: golden boy Cane (Beau Bridges, naturally) wins his tennis match, beds Cynthia the Swede (“I make fantastic guacamole” is the groovy pickup line, courtesy future Bond girl Maude Adams), drives around in his sports car, then walks on the beach. They hang out at the farmer’s market. They see live music—specifically, a song that sounds like it might be called “Ruby Begonja,” in one of the most over-the-top Sunset Strip performances since Charlie Smalls wailed at a stolid Lee Marvin in Point Blank. Cynthia’s a photographer, which explains the Tim Buckley cameo, but why is she meeting with Jean Renoir again? For that matter, what is Allan Arbus doing here? He’s vaguely serving as Cynthia’s Older Male Consort, it seems. The pot he bought from Cisco doesn’t appear to have loosened him up at all. Cane’s got a coach, more a close friend than the Second Angry Father that Gene Hackman was to Robert Redford in Downhill Racer, but nonetheless keeps him serious about the game. (What’s the deal with these mentor/prodigy-prodigy’s new girlfriend movies? The Color of Money is the first one that comes to mind, but there are dozens of them. The mentor and girlfriend always hit it off, and she tells the prodigy this in the next scene, before they go to bed. What is this supposed to tell us?

Golden Boy goes to Austin, plays against some dude, loses, and sleeps with some groupie. Returns, gets fucked up in his mansion. When he hears that his coach has died, he goes for a ride, and brings along a mounted camera a la Gun Crazy, Two Lane Blacktop, Kiss Me Deadly, etc.


The Panic in Needle Park (Jerry Schatzberg, 1971) is only marginally more interesting than Ivan Passer’s somnambulant Born to Win (starring George Segal as a junkie!) of the same year. Are there any good heroin dramas, or does the narcotic just too effectively make the characters boring beyond belief? Luckily, Pacino alternates wide-eyed innocence (perfect for courting Kitty Winn and the audience at once) and visceral menace, a quality he’d shelve until…geez, I don’t know, 1983’s Scarface? The one nice touch is the climax/denouement, Shocked at her betrayal, he screams, “how could you?” New scene: he’s released from jail; she appears and follows him down the empty road. “Well?” he asks, and they continue walking. Cut to black. Roll credits.


Blogger John Holbo said...

Hi, Sean. I googled and found your blog. Looks semi-deserted. Perhaps you will check in within the month, however. No hurry. (Better say something about one of the posts. Yes, Zabriskie Point just keeps staying dull.)

I read "Atomsmashers" and greatly enjoyed it, so thanks. I'm leaving this comment because I blog at Crooked Timber and posted something rather clever (if I do say so) about the book. Among other things, I remember where I was and what I was doing when I learned the word 'tatterdemalion', which you mention in your preface. Very funny. And I invited commenters to recall other words they learned from superhero comics, and they proved obliging, which proved amusing. Here's the URL:

Also, I wrote up something on my personal blog about the book, collecting the phenomenological bits if you will:

So feel free to drop by.

Cheers and glad to meet you,

John Holbo

9:16 PM  

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