Friday, April 25, 2008

Delirious with DiCillo

In his films, director Tom DiCillo typically paints some aspect of show business with plenty of spit and vinegar and a surprising wallop of sentimentality. Delirious, his treatise on the fame machine, is no exception. It reunites the writer/director with Steve Buscemi, who clocks in arguably the most undersung performance of his career, as Les, a bitterer-than-thou celeb photographer who hires homeless Toby (bumpy-mouthed Michael Pitt) to be essentially an indentured servant. (Yes, they call those interns in New York.) Toby hankers after poor-little-rich-girl Karma, a Britney-like starlet (Alison Lohman) whose parents are suing her for $7 million to recover the costs of raising her, who launches her own fragrance Instant K’Harma (yes, sic) and who writes her own songs clad only in a bra and horn-rimmed glasses. What’s more, she is strangely sympathetic, partly because of how she’s been written and partly in credit to Lohman. Eventually, Toby's pout snags Alison's attention and a moral struggle with Les ensues that involves a meta-scripted reality series in which Toby plays Toby, the homeless serial killler. To say DiCillo has keenly observed this industry in this well-edited film is an understatement, and I know of what I speak these days.

This is probably why Kohn included me in the discussion with DiCillo that followed the film. I was genuinely curious about DiCillo's juxtaposition of an idealized romantic love (one scene between Pitt and Lohman is literally strewn with flowers if not hearts) with an otherwise prevailing bitterness. It's a tonal contrast that sometimes disrupts the narrative flow of all his films in a way I've never been able to reconcile.

In person, DiCillo oddly resembles Buscemi’s character; they both sport rather long shanks of dark hair and a ‘90s version of a '70s aesthetic. Was DiCillo conscious of that choice? Was he mocking himself in some way? Forgive my superficial observations but I am always fascinated by how people choose to present themselves. (To be fair, I should disclose I am wearing bright red lipstick and a tiger print jacket over a red 60s print dress with gold platform clogs. “Color!” mouthed a slightly cowed DiCillo before we strode on stage.)

Affter outlining his very frustrating, largely unsuccessful struggle to achieve distribution (he used the word “astonishing” a lot), DiCillo fielded my question with aplomb. “I believe in real love,” he said. “And we rarely see it on the screen. The reason that the relationship between Toby and Karma works is because they possess a purity. They are honest, which is necessary for love to happen.” It was such an unabashed thing to say that I almost felt embarrassed for him, except that it was true and it was clear that DiCillo wasn’t just tossing out a line. His voice broke and I felt, not for the first time at this year’s festival, dangerously close to crying in public myself.


Andrew D. Wells said...

Delirious is a special film. A shame about how poorly it was distributed. Hopefully, its upcoming DVD release will help rectify people's awareness of it.

If you or any of the festival blog readers are interested, I am in attendence at Ebertfest and have also been blogging abot it. You should be able to follow my name back to my blog.

illinoisbutnotcountry said...

Delirious was my favorite film of Ebertfest 2008 with Shotgun Stories bringing in a close 2nd.

Lisa...your gold shoes were a riot. Talk about color--each day I saw you at the festival, you were your own rainbow. I "dug it"!

Later, doll....