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5.09.2017

Punching the Clown

I recently discovered Punching the Clown on Amazon, a semi-autobiographical story about the movie's writer,  Henry Phillips, and his move to Los Angeles to further his music/comedy career.  I watched it five times in the 7-day streaming window, as it really is that good.

The movie is the decades-long dream project between himself and his buddy/director Gregori Viens, Phillips explains in this 2010 interview on the Comedy Film Nerds Podcast.  Viens, a college movie professor, finally decided to invest his own savings in the movie after frustration with not finding a studio willing to make it.

There's an authenticity to the movie that, say, something like La La Land doesn't possess.  La La Land's $30 million budget, Hollywood polish and A-list cast doesn't quite jibe with the theme of poor-actor-scraping-by-trying-to-make-it-big.

Punching the Clown, on the other hand, has a budget of around $200K, and all of the actors, in addition to being awesome, (I discovered from looking up on Imdb) are relatively unknown.  This really struck me; how is it that these awesome actors aren't more successful, and really gave an appreciation for how much talent out there doesn't make it to the big screen.  The unknown cast also gave the movie a real breath of fresh air.  It's soo much easier to watch a movie without the disctracting ego of A-list celebrities.

Punching the Clown is very honest movie, as it's Phillipas own lived experience--as he points out in the CFN interview--small time Hollywood, and includes a hilarious party scene where everyone is trying to promote themselves and at the same time evading other people's pitches.

The movie would just barely pass the Bechdel Test, but does have some awesome female characters, including Phillip's agent and the barista where he open-mics.

For much of the movie, Phillips is telling his story in a radio interview, and the movie cuts to the actual scenarios that he references in the interview.  He struggles over whether or not he's selling out  to the record company that wants to sign him, and in the movie we see asinine musicians making it big while the better art struggles.

Perhaps that's what happened with this movie.  It's too good for the Michael Bay and Fast and Furious audiences.  Not that it was ever hoping for something on such a major scale.  But let's face it.  Woody Allen makes another fucking movie every 18 months and that guy--man you want to talk banal?

So I agree with the message of the movie.  If you're smart, make good comedy--well you might be fucked.  And I think that the excellent actors (the brother, the agent, the radio interviewer), and their semi-lack of success demonstrates this same point.

I guess what I'm saying is that this message in the movie about banality making it big, and good art being ignored, is the realized experience of the move as well as the actors in it.

Well and there you have it.  I highly recommend Punching the Clown.  It's smart, it's funny, it's raw, and it just might be your thing!





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