<b>SFiFF 5: Starfuckers Inc.: <i>BACKSTAGE</i> & <i>A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION</b></i>

by gabe
May 8, 2006 6:26 AM
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BACKSTAGE
Emmanuelle Bercot's BACKSTAGE follows Lucie (Isild Le Besco), a sycophantic teen girl, whose fantasy is realized when she is (improbably) taken into the inner circle of Lauren, a Madonna-esque French pop idol (played with Catherine Tramell intensity by Emmanuelle Seigner).

Lauren leads the sheltered life of a spoiled rock star. Holed-up in a swank Paris hotel suffering a bout of depression after being dumped by her model boyfriend, her rejection all the more painful bacause she is accustomed to getting what she wants, no questions asked.

Adoring Lucie restores Lauren's confidence, stroking her ego and providing her the occasional fix. Despite the fact that she shows nothing but distain for the fans who hold vigil beneath her hotel window, Lauren feasts on the unconditional affections this impressionable, willing teenager.

What could have beeen a post-modern spin on ALL ABOUT EVE loses steam in the third act. Just when it appears that Lucie (and Lauren's ex beau) seem to have figured out that the superficial thrill of starfucking is an empty experience, director/writer decides that Lucie may be more Hedy Carlson than Eve Harrington.

A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION
Closing night at the Castro was a fine affair, with in person appearances by Lily Tomlin and Virginia Madsen.

An amalgam some of Robert Altman's favorite themes, A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION feels like a mash-up of NASHVILLE, BREWSTER MCCLOUD, THE LONG GOODBYE, KANSAS CITY and the woefully neglected THE COMPANY. Of all the films in his ouvre from which to borrow, Altman chose fairly well. (I could have done without the BREWSTER MCCLOUD homage, but things might have been worse: imagine, if you will, a bastard concoction of POPEYE, COOKIE'S FORTUNE, DR. T AND THE WOMEN, and BEYOND THERAPY…)

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Virginia Madsen, Robin Williams and Lily Tomlin at the Castro in San Francisco. Williams (RV) wonders to himself why Bob hasn't called him since POPEYE.

Set backstage during the final episode of Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion radio program, which is broadcast weekly from the Fitzgerald theatre in Minnesota, the narrative features Keillors as GK (himself) as well as many figures from his program, including his Johnny-on-the-spot House Band, ever ready to tickle out a tune, or craft an ad lib musical interlude.

Most of the other performers in his program, are fictional-musical guests includes John C. Reilly and Woody Harrelson as Dusty and Lefty, a country duo fond of singing off color ditties and Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin as the Johnson Sisters, a family act who perfect the Altman-esque challenge of overlapping dialogue in their rambling song intros, but who harmonize like pros in the songs themselves. (Lindsey Lohan barely registers as Streep's suicide obsessed daughter.)

Further blurring the lines between fiction and meta-fiction, Kevin Kline plays Guy Noir, whom fans of Keillor's program will recognize as one of the story-teller's stock characters. Here, Noir is the head of security for the theatre, as clumsy as Inspector Clouseu with cliché-ridden hard boiled line deliveries imagined by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett's love child. This anachronistic ploy is further skewed by the presence of Virginia Madsen's Dangerous Woman, a Guy Noir femme fatale, who is both a ghost, and the angel of death.

Altman shoots these disparate elements with a steady observational neutrality-creating the sense that everything, crafty and premeditated as it may be, a spontaneous immediacy.

Which begs the following questions:
Why did Keillor (and Altman) work so hard to re-create a fictional version of the program when the program itself continues to exist? Why introduce the hoary convention of the final show? Why throw in the metaphysical angle of the angel of death? Why have Tommy Lee Jones show up to witness first hand just a few minutes of the program whose plus he and his corporate powerbroker buddies are about to pull? Why waste the considerable talents of Maya Rudolph?

And finally: Why not simply open an actual program to be documented by the likes of D.A. Pennebaker, or Jonathan Demme, or Martin Scorsese? One can only imagine what those who documented THE LAST WALTZ, DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN, and SWIMMING TO CAMBODIA might have done with Keillor's old Minnesota home.

Fans of Keillor's program will be most incensed by the absence of his trademark story time-most notably his reminiscences of Lake Wobegon. His show ends up feeling more like an episode of GRAND OLD OPRY than something we hear on NPR.

But fret not, Keillor diehards. During the post screening Q&A, Tomlin let slip that Keillor and Altman are planning to re-unite for another project devoted just to the fictitious town.

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