Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"The Last Scene" (Paul Verhoeven, 1985), episode of The Hitchhiker

"I don't want great -- just give me a movie that's gonna make some money!" Here's an episode of an '80s HBO show (slow pacing, synth music, softcore sex, Canadian accents) directed by Paul Verhoeven (exceptional / entertaining / possibly cynical, possibly earnest use of all of those elements + wide angle lenses) from a script by Robert J. Avrech, co-writer of Body Double (it shows). First, that Avrech script, which was based on a story by one of the series' producers but feels like it was meant for a De Palma feature: Peter Coyote (really more of a Cronenberg man -- why didn't they ever work together?) plays an actor-turned-director trying to get his lead actress to nail the climactic scene of his debut feature; his directorial career hinges on it, so he turns to scaring the living shit out of her to get her into the right emotional state. Second, those late 20th century "edgy TV" elements: all present and accounted for, even the bland keyboard stabs on the soundtrack (you'd never guess that Michel Rubini would go on to score Manhunter) and obligatory scenes in hotel rooms (someone have a theory on why there are so many hotels in these sorts of anthology shows -- besides the fact that they're cheap to shoot in and easy to construct on a sound stage because they already look like fake apartments?). Best for last, how it all fits together with Verhoeven: sometimes striking in an impoverished sort of way (a rain-slicked street is a pretty cheap but strong effect), but, more interestingly, a throwback to his Dutch films in the way it handles its male protagonist, who would've been an artist if the script had really been given to De Palma, but becomes a manipulative dick in Verhoeven's hands.

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