10 July 2011

Variety (1983)

Friend: You gotta hit the streets honey. Go out there and work; I mean you're skinny, you're pretty, you could sell clothes. Go to 5th Avenue.
Christine: Oh, 5th Avenue?
Friend: Yeah.
Christine: You know people wait in line for those jobs.
Friend: Truly? Amazing.
Christine: People will do anything ... for work. Including me. I don't know, man. If I don't get a job soon, I ... I don't know what I'm gonna do.
Friend: Really?
Christine: I really don't. It's ... it's uh ... getting bad.
Friend: Well, I do know of a job Christy, but I don't think you would want it. I really don't think you're the type.
Christine: Sure.
Friend: I don't think it's for you honey.
Christine: Look, I'm interested! What is it?

Variety is a film from 1983, set and filmed in New York City. It's also the name of the erotic theater where Christine (Sandy McLeod) works. Christine's trying to carve a path for herself through life.

Will Patton, Luis Guzmán, Tom DiCillo, and John Lurie receive early film credits. Christine Vachon was a production assistant. If you IMDb Luis Guzmán, you can see director Bette Gordon had the vision to cast him in a speaking role at a time in his career when he was playing roles like Gypsy Cabbie, Goon #1, Gang Member #2, and Bystander (uncredited). He, Luis Guzmán, as Jose, has one of the best dialogue scenes in the movie:

Jose: Oh - okay. The guy that be sitting in the front row. Yeah, right up on the screen.
Christine: Yeah ... well I don't know where he sits, Jose ...
Jose: Honey I don't know about that guy I'm gonna tell you right now ...
Christine: Do you know who I'm talking about?
Jose: Yeah yeah yeah. He be having the price tag be sticking out of his suit, man, 275 for a suit, man, that guy must be sick coming in here, (tsk), damn.
Christine: Jose, I don't know what you're talking about ...
Jose: You don't know ... that guy took his mother to Coney Island and left her on the Cyclone for thirty years, man ...
Christine: Jose ...
Jose: He went back and she still was on the ride.
Christine: I don't want character analysis. I wanna know if you've seen him.
Jose: Well, I haven't seen him honey. I tell, I'm gonna tell ... and he is funny. But, eh, why you wanna go see funny guys when you can see a guy like Jose, you know, like ... Friday night - me and you go have some cuchifrito, gonna do some, some ...
Christine: Jose ...
Jose: Some meringa dancing ...
Christine: It's been great seeing you ...
Jose: You know what I mean ...
Christine: I'll talk to you later.
Jose (as Christine walks away): Just, just, you don't like to tango. Okay. Hey. Can't take a joke, don't be showing up here early, alright. (to himself as he sweeps the theater floor) Gotta warm up this woman, really now. Jesus Christ. Try to be a nice guy and look at how they treat you.

Some great cinema. Certain scenes are anecdotal and expose aspects of the person speaking; they reminded me of Richard Linklater's Slacker. A crucial late scene used "The Diary," performed by Little Anthony and the Imperials, like Azazel Jacobs used "Damaged Goods" in The GoodTimes Kid. The camera's love of beauty and lights reminded me of Wong Kar-wai, and Variety is kind of like if Christopher Doyle had shot Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver or Paul Schrader's Hardcore. It's the older sister of Lee Kang-sheng's Help Me, Eros.

Bette Gordon's film and I share the same tastes. It's into urban cultures and lifestyles, perversity, seedy underworlds, truer visions of the downtrodden, pop art, John Lurie's jazz, lights, and the dark heart of the city. In this movie the camera loves neon like I love neon in real life. Gordon also searches out aesthetic layers that occur naturally in a modern society.

Love that the JumboTron is playing a video of a space shuttle launch. Other shots have home televisions, and several scenes take place within Variety while a porn movie plays. Often shots are set up around mirrors or glass. These visual textures suggest a society with a densely complex personality, and as Christine learns more about this society, she learns about herself.

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