Posts Tagged ‘The Room’
October 29, 2013 | by Hope Reese
Ten years ago, Tommy Wiseau produced, wrote, directed, and starred in one of the best worst movies of all time. The Room, a six million dollar endeavor, was conceived as a “Tennessee Williams-like” drama, its insight into human relationships sure to place it in the running for an Oscar. The film, however, was not received as the auteur intended. Instead of winning accolades, its hilariously inexplicable writing, cinematography, and performances have earned it a devoted cult following.
But even stranger than the film itself is the story behind The Room. How did Wiseau, whose age, past, nationality, and financial means are shrouded in mystery, create this spectacular catastrophe? To begin unraveling the mystery, journalist Tom Bissell (who first wrote about the film in a piece for Harper’s) teamed up with Greg Sestero (costar of The Room and close friend of Wiseau) to write The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made. Their book pieces together anecdotes from Sestero’s friendship with Wiseau with the story of the production (the entire crew was fired four times over, for example).
With insight, appreciation for the bizarre, and genuine humanity, Bissell has helped create a book almost as hilarious as the film itself. Bissell is best known for his long-form nonfiction on subjects ranging from Chuck Lorre, the creator of popular TV shows, to the video game Grand Theft Auto, to the films of Werner Herzog. He now writes scripts for a video game company and is working on a book on early Christianity. I spoke with him over Skype from his office in Los Angeles.
It’s a bizarre experience watching The Room for the first time. What was it like for you?
I’d just moved to Portland. I was sitting in an empty apartment on an air mattress waiting for my girlfriend and all my stuff to arrive in a U-Haul. I spent the day looking on the Internet for something to occupy myself. I stumbled across clips of The Room and watched them in various states of amazement. It’s unlike any movie I’ve ever seen. Through a stroke of coincidence I’ll never understand, it turned out that the movie was premiering in Portland that night at a theater five blocks from the apartment I’d rented. What’s really funny is that someone was recording an audience-reaction documentary there that night, so on YouTube there’s a clip of me being interviewed before I saw it for the first time. I felt so exhilarated by the movie, by its combination of complete incompetence and utter confidence. It swept me up, and my aesthetic life has never been the same since. I’m obsessed with it. I love it. Whether you want to call it outsider art or bananas art or disaster art, the movie has something that movies made with infinitesimally more precision and expertise will never have. It has a big beating heart. Read More »
September 20, 2013 | by The Paris Review
Galvanized by the interview with Ursula Le Guin in our current issue, and recalling my love for her first three Earthsea books, I’ve embarked upon the second set in the series, which she began nearly two decades after the original trio. The long stories in Tales from Earthsea have been keeping me company late at night, the perfect companion for my recent bouts of insomnia. Though they function as back stories for characters and events in the earlier books, they’re also highly enjoyable as standalone narratives. What the best fantasy does—and what Le Guin does in spades—is give the impression that even when the book stops, the world inside its pages continues to exist beyond the bounds of the author’s invention. Upon her return to writing about Earthsea, Le Guin herself found that to be true: “What I thought was going to happen isn’t what’s happening, people aren’t who—or what—I thought they were, and I lose my way on islands thought I knew by heart.” —Nicole Rudick
After Sadie wrote about The Disaster Artist last week, I couldn’t help but pick up the book myself. I had seen The Room years ago—and the film’s as inexplicable as you’ve heard—but I was captivated by the unlikely bromance between a struggling actor and an enigmatic filmmaker at the core of the story. Yes, there are plenty of hilarious making-of stories, but it’s a sincere portrait of the rewards and peril of having an artistic vision you’re 100 percent committed to expressing. For the uninitiated: check out the book trailer here. —Justin Alvarez
Blek le Rat’s solo exhibition “Ignorance Is Bliss” lured me to the Jonathan LeVine Gallery this week, and his stenciled canvases have since been burned into my retinas. In these large, often monochromatic images, strewn with thick swashes of black, the viewer sees such forms as the oracle Sibyl from Greek antiquity, via appropriation of Michelangelo’s Libyan Sibyl. Grace permeates the canvas; Blek subverts this with a skull tattoo on Sibyl’s arm. In a six-foot canvas we see several children playing tug-of-war with one of his iconic rats. On a nearby pedestal is Blek’s first work in sculpture, a small bronze statue of David holding a Kalashnikov while a rat gazes up from below. Seeing the culmination of thirty years of the Parisian-born street artist’s work, we experience both its sociopolitical resolve and the familiarity of his tightly controlled spray-paint forms; he innovated stencils and rats, and others took cues from him, or, indeed, lifted his entire style. For those who know street art through Banksy, here’s what the famously elusive artist allegedly said of Blek: “Every time I think I’ve painted something slightly original, I find out that Blek le Rat has done it as well, only twenty years earlier.” And should you notice a stenciled Andy Warhol or a gas mask surrounded by rats on a wall in Brooklyn, that too, was Blek. —Adam Winters
Long before I went to work at Jezebel, I was a devoted fan of Lizzie Skurnick’s late, lamented “Fine Lines” column, in which she paid tribute to unjustly forgotten YA classics. So, like many people, I was thrilled when I heard about Lizzie Skurnick Books, an imprint devoted to just these titles. The series kicks off with a bang: the great Lois Duncan’s 1958 Debutante Hill. The book, Duncan’s first, is a classic coming-of-age page-turner with a protagonist you root for. But like all her fiction, it deals with real issues of class, social consciousness, and growing up with seriousness and sensitivity, and is as fresh and engaging today as it was upon its publication. But then, that is what Skurnick has always understood about these books: at their best, they are literature in the true sense of the word, and by no means only for young readers. (Although it’s exciting to think of a new generation discovering them.) —Sadie Stein
Since the current issue of The Paris Review features an excerpt from Jonathan Franzen’s upcoming translation of Karl Kraus, I figured it would be thematically appropriate to tout Stefan Zweig’s autobiography, The World of Yesterday. (A shame, incidentally, about that title translation. In English, it sounds a little too much like a depressing expo installation; the book’s elegiac tone is more successfully rendered in the German original, Die Welt von Gestern.) As Kraus’s contemporary, Zweig’s memoir is useful reading for anyone interested in the social milieu of fin de siècle Vienna, and the precipitous decline of the Hapsburg Empire. Zweig’s dewy-eyed recollection of the prewar years in Vienna, not to mention his gushing description of boy wonder Hugo von Hofmannsthal, also provide a nice counterbalance to the eternally acerbic Kraus. —Fritz Huber
March 2, 2012 | by The Paris Review
“The dustbin of history was, to the revolutionary of the thirties, what Hell was to the Maine farmer. To fall out of history, to lose your grip upon its express train, to be buried in its graveyard—the conflicting metaphors descriptive of that immolation recurred again and again. But who could have believed that it could happen to so many so young?” So writes Murray Kempton in A Part of Our Time, his series of biographical essays on radicals of the 1930s. First published in 1955, the essays have lost none of their sparkle, and as a great newspaperman (who just happened, sometimes, to write like Lytton Strachey) Kempton can dash off a portrait or render an absolute judgment or paint the entire sweep of the New Deal in a matter of column inches. —Lorin Stein
I was at the New York branch of the Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya over the weekend, perusing their extensive selection of art publications, and I came across the 2007 book Henry Darger’s Room. The outsider artist’s work will be familiar to most people, but if you haven’t seen images of his tiny Chicago apartment—left intact for twenty-five years after his death and partially reassembled in the Intuit Museum—then have a look at this volume, by his former landlords. The book is somewhere between creepy and magical. —Sadie Stein
The New York Public Library’s exhibition “Shelley’s Ghost” is a pleasant place to spend an hour after lunch if you happen to be in midtown. You can examine “Ode to the West Wind” and “Ozymandias” as well as Laurence Olivier’s copy of The Cenci (he once contemplated a production). There are also a few Shelleyean relics, some cute and some a little bizarre: the poet’s gold-chased baby rattle, his Neapolitan guitar (see “With a Guitar, to Jane”), and some fragments of skull that survived his cremation near Viareggio. —Robyn Creswell
Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, a collection of dark and sensual feminist fairy tales based on traditional legends, has me spellbound. —Elizabeth Nelson
The entire collection of love letters between Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning were put online earlier this month. They aren’t exactly tied in a pink ribbon, but they are fascinating to browse. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn
This Is Not a Film, a collaboration between Iranian filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtamhmasb, opened this week in New York. Made right before Panahi was sent to an Iranian prison on a six-year stint for antigovernment propaganda, the movie is a portrait of a filmmaker in crisis, a yawp over the roofs of the world. —Josh Anderson