Friday, September 3, 2010

Paul Thomas Anderson Tribute Month: Marquee Memories (Boogie Nights)


That summer of 77 had left you physically fractured and spiritually splintered. New York had been particularly punishing those few months and you had had your fill of the blackouts, the humidity and David Berkowitz. Even a brief trip upstate with your former lover Veronica hadn’t done the trick, as it had only served as a reminder to days you had lost. As the summer gave way to the fall you decided to leave the city again, although you couldn't say why you chose Los Angeles for your escape.
For awhile your choice for a new city seemed to be paying off. Within minutes of getting off the plane you were getting off in a rather cramped unclaimed luggage closet with a skinny young blonde named Sheila. She had disaster written all over her though, but that was a quality you had always found irresistible. So, by nightfall you had settled into her unbelievably cramped and crummy efficiency apartment with her two cats and a seemingly unending line of freaks, losers and out of the game guests constantly filtering in and out.
The guest you saw the most that fall was a mysterious older gentleman name Floyd who would stop by fairly regularly, sometimes dropping off small amounts of cash and sometimes taking it. Floyd was always well-dressed, and could be sort of charming, but he had danger written all over his face and it took you awhile to figure out his relation to Sheila, as the two would often fade into a corner of her apartment together.
Floyd ignored you for the most part initially, although he would occasionally glance your way with a distrusting, if not completely unwelcoming, look. You had finally resigned yourself to just not knowing what was up with Floyd and Sheila, as she refused to speak about him, until one day that fall he suddenly came up and introduced himself.
"I'm Floyd Gondolli, I'm in the film-financing business?"
Your initial reaction was a bit of a shocked acknowledgement, as his sudden obvious interest in you left you strangely reeling. You chatted for a few minutes and you gathered bits and pieces about the films Floyd made, but the information he offered was vague. Some of the films he financed were short, some were long, some were plot-driven while others were "action-oriented". He talked a lot about the future and changes that were coming but your mind still hadn't recovered enough, from the summer in New York, to fully take in everything he was saying.
Sheila seemed disappointed at first when you started to come along with her on her trips out but she soon became accepting, as if your involvement in her work had been a foregone conclusion. Floyd paid little but for the most part he was fine, except for the occasional violent outburst often directed at the crew-men he had working on his films. Most of his angered seemed centered on how expensive the film was they were using and he kept mumbling about videotape and this future he envisioned where people would watch his films at home, instead of on the graveyard end of a times-square triple-feature.
Most of the films you acted in were loops and they weren't very good, but you couldn't complain as the girls were nice for the most part. They were certainly no comparison to those ladies that had haunted your dreams from those Henry Paris films, you had seen back in New York, or the Jack Horner films Floyd often ranted about. Floyd promised great things, one day he swore that Desireé Cousteau was on board for a scene but she never showed up, but for the most part your time making his films just left you numb and wanting more.
Floyd would occasionally take you and Sheila to the movies, to see the competition as he called it. They typically were Colonel James Productions directed by Jack Horner and their larger budgets and better casts clearly drove Floyd crazy, but you noticed he couldn't take his eyes off the screen when you all went. One film you remember in particular was Spanish Pantalones, the film that introduced you to this young kid Dirk Diggler. Seeing the way Diggler handled his co-starts Roller-Girl and Amber Waves should have probably inspired you to make better films but instead it reminded you that you were just a passenger in that town, and it was time to split.
Knowing what had happened to the other kids you had tried to leave Floyd Gondolli's circle, you decided to sneak out on a cooler than usual San Fernando Valley winter's evening. You kissed Sheila goodbye, who seemed like she was sleeping although you suspected she was awake, and you made your escape from Los Angeles for, what you hoped, would be the last time. Of course, you were never one to keep your promises and the city would soon invite you back again. For now though, it was back to New York and the familiar strangers and theaters you had left behind those many months before.

-Jeremy Richey, 2010-

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