In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it.
Last week I wrote about Fred Dekker, a wonderfully talented director who, after allegedly dropping the ball on an already doomed franchise ended up in “director jail.” This week I’d like to talk about a film that disappeared after the director, Roger Avary, ended up in actual jail.
For those in the know, Roger Avary is a bit of a cult icon. He won an Oscar for his story credit on Pulp Fiction, wrote and directed the excellent Killing Zoe, and helmed the most artistically successful Bret Easton Ellis adaptation to date, The Rules of Attraction. But after a deadly traffic accident during which Avary was intoxicated, the auteur ended up in jail, and his career all but disappeared.
His final film was the unreleased Glitterati, which was a meditative road movie constructed from the 70 hours of footage shot for the famous “European Trip” sequence in The Rules of Attraction. This film was indeed completed, but has never been released. Avary stated that he does not wish to ever release it outside of special screenings he himself hosts. He cited the film’s content as a contributing factor to this decision, since much of the footage is lead actor Kip Pardue legitimately seducing real-life women while staying in character. It’s easy to see why this might not fly in a broad sense, and even easier to hear hordes of viewers referring to its ethics as ‘problematic’ and ‘in need of unpacking.’
While I lament that I may not ever get to see Glitterati, it’s the loss of Avary’s next film that really unstitches my britches. Pardue’s character in Glitterati, Victor Ward, is the protagonist (bro-tagonist?) in Ellis’ follow up to The Rules of Attraction, a neo-noir-ish espionage thriller, Glamorama. Avary was set to adapt the novel (I’ve read it, and it is brilliant), and direct it for the big screen.
In Glamorama, Victor is now a hugely successful model who gets tapped to act as an international spy/terrorist for a mysterious organization*. Or maybe he hasn’t. It’s hard to tell what is real given that one of the narrative devices is Victor’s constant awareness of, and interaction with, an omnipresent film production crew who monitor and inform his every move. Being an Ellis novel, an unreliable narrator is par for the course, and as evidenced in The film version of Attraction, Avary is adept at telling a coherent story using multiple unreliable narrators.
During the “European Trip” segment of The Rules of Attraction, there are many references to plot points contained within Glamorama, perhaps the most notable being a terrorist bombing to which Victor seems largely unfazed. In the world of Attraction we assume it’s because Victor, like those around him, is an emotionless rich kid who couldn’t be bothered, but a Glamorama film would suggest that maybe he’s non-plussed by the attack because he was involved. I wonder if Glitterati expounds upon this in any way. I doubly wonder if the creation of Glamorama would at least justify a release of Glitterati (although it’s probably impossible to pave over the ethical issues regarding the production of it).
Avary has proven himself adept to capturing Ellis’ dark style of humor, and Glamorama is easily Ellis’ most darkly humorous work. It’s also, according to Ellis, his attempt at a Robert Ludlum novel, which in a post-Bourne cinematic landscape, is ripe for satirization, as is the celebrity-obsessed culture which fueled the book’s condemnation of candy-colored consumerism.
Whether or not Avary would still be the best choice to make Glamorama is up in the air (I’d actually enjoy Richard Kelly taking a stab at it), he’s still my first choice. I’ve been champing at the bit for this film ever since first reading the book and hearing of Avary’s involvement, and now that Avary is out of jail, this could perhaps be a path back to critical grace. As it currently stands, Avary’s Hollywood future is a mystery.
The most recent update regarding Glamorama’s status came in the form of a tweet by Ellis himself in 2011:
“Just finished reading Roger Avary’s adaptation of “Glamorama” which he will direct next year. Hilarious, horrific, sad. He’s a mad genius.”
Well, “next year” has come and gone… but there’s always next year. Rock and roll.
*yes, this is essentially the plot of Zoolander, and apparently some sort of litigation happened between the creators of each. Details are hard to come by.