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    Monday, November 08, 2004

    Book: A Third Face, by Samuel Fuller (2002)

    This memoir by the filmmaker would be considerably shorter if all references to the testicles were removed. Fuller is forever working on one of his “ballsy yarns,” each of which has a “grab-‘em-by-the-balls opening.” Those descriptions are accurate. The book is written the way Fuller talked, which is one of the reasons why I loved it.

    Fuller was a master of the B-movie, pushing the form to its limits. Anyone who’s seen PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET, THE NAKED KISS or SHOCK CORRIDOR will vouch for that. He also led an extraordinary life, as reporter, soldier, filmmaker, and human being. His book is studded with memorable encounters with the likes of Jim Morrison, Marlene Dietrich, Hitchcock, Fassbinder. Reading it has only stoked my anticipation for the restored version of his 1980 WWII epic THE BIG RED ONE, slowly making its way around the country before its DVD release.

    Conventional wisdom says that a B-movie sensibility has permeated Hollywood. Looking at any Fuller movie, you realize how untrue that is. His films contained shocking plot developments that provoked the audience into thought. (No less a B-movie authority than Roger Corman said that some trace of political awareness was a key ingredient in making a successful picture.) Big-budget films kept the twists without connecting them to the real world. They’re used as fashion statements, not personal or political ones. They don’t challenge any preconceived notions.

    As for indie filmmakers, as much as I enjoy this current flowering of their work, they’ve retreated in the other direction. Too many of them make films that come out of their own heads – or other movies – and not life on the ground around us. We desperately need someone like Fuller right now, someone who will merge life and art into a heightened reality. Who’ll make a picture that tells you something about the world while grabbing you by the short hairs, goddamn it!

    Sorry. Read 559 pages and it’s bound to rub off on you.

    TV: The Surreal Life

    I’ll admit it. I watched the entire third season. I’m not proud of it. But no experience is wasted. Here’s what I learned:

    - Brigitte Nielsen is terrifying.
    - Flavor Flav can be annoying.
    - Dave Coulier is a nice, if dull, guy.
    - Charo is actually kind of cool.
    - AMERICAN IDOL contestants like Ryan Starr have an inflated sense of their own importance.
    - Jordan Knight was apparently in New Kids on the Block.

    On second thought, I didn’t learn anything.


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