Posts Tagged ‘Tom DiCillo’

Under the credits, it’s a day in the life of a street kid – sleeping, eating, panhandling, running away with something he stole.

Michael Pitt is Toby, self-described as not as homeless, but “moving around right now.” Steve Buscemi is Les, self-described as a “licensed professional photojournalist,” or what most people would call a paparazzo. He accepts Toby as an unpaid gofer in return for a place to crash. Toby can not only fix things, but take notes and elbow rival paparazzi out of the way. He makes himself nearly indispensable.

The photographer and his assistant go to a wickedly satirical benefit for STD sufferers, where Toby meets a soap opera casting director, and things are set in motion for his apotheosis. They visit Les’s parents, who are archetypal “get a real job” old folks at home, only nastier than some. You see why Les became how he is. In fact, you see a lot of things. It’s funny, how much can be illuminated by “black humor.”

There are plenty of synopses of Delirious available online, including writer/director Tom DiCillo’s own. He’s an independent who has not only made other films of his own, but filled such noteworthy roles as cinematographer for Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise.

Delirious was shot in only 25 days and has won a bunch of awards, and some viewers find it funnier than others. Stephen Holden, for instance says,

…you leave the movie feeling as though you have gazed into a closed circle of hell where everybody feeds off everyone else until there is nothing left.

Toby gets famous overnight, acting the part of a homeless serial killer (who, presumably, only kills really scummy bad guys.) In one scene he dallies in a sylvan setting with a lovely young thing who says, “You’ve taught me so much about being homeless….” which is a priceless line.

The beating heart of this film is the relationship between the two men. They are mentor and protégé, master and novice, benefactor and charity-seeker, but they are also friends. The big irony is, when Toby first moves in, Les keeps wanting reassurance that his house guest isn’t gay. And he isn’t. But by the end, Les is feeling, thinking, and acting like a jealous lover. His elaborate, handcrafted revenge plot is pure hysterical over-wrought stagy queen – only he doesn’t know it.

In an interview conducted by Paulington James Christensen III, DiCillo said this about Les:

I just wanted to make this about a guy who is so isolated as a human being. He is so twisted, so crippled by what his life had done to him.

In an interview with Gary Goldstein, he said:

I love characters that have desperate qualities about them, but then other things that make them human…. I wanted people to see that Les was damaged–and that every one of us, in our own way, has some form of that damage.

Don’t miss the short scene after the end credits.

RECOMMENDED: great satirical videos about marketing, etc. – start at #2

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I obviously haven’t been paying enough attention. Here’s the story:

By a strange coincidence, the last two movies I saw featured the same actor. This lad looked vaguely familiar, but that’s not surprising, because he has the tabula rasa quality that lets him be anybody. Michael Pitt isn’t exactly the most memorable name, either.

Why did I order these two movies, anyway? Funny Games, I forget where the recommendation came from, but I saw it first, and thought the Paul character was plenty creepy; reminiscent, in fact, of certain over-entitled youth who tend to show up in a college town like the one I live in. A 2007 Choire Sicha piece described him as “the cheeriest, cleanest, shiniest sadist ever” and Pitt told the interviewer,

In a lot of ways I had the easiest role. The straighter I played it, the sicker it’d be.

For Delirious, the “why” is easy: I’ll watch anything Steve Buscemi is in. What a great movie. As it turned out, this was when I really started to wonder, “Who is this Michael Pitt?” and looked up the filmography – DUH, of course I’ve seen him before. In the movie I adore, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I hadn’t really paid attention to the actor’s name, just accepted him as Tommy Gnosis and thought no more about it. It was more important to know that Stephen Trask did the vocals in the movie, so that was the name I associated with the character.

Well, the veils of ignorance are cast aside, and now I know exactly who Michael Pitt is.

It’s like Mickey Rourke’s early days. I’m thinking of Teddy the arsonist in Body Heat – he was so compelling, and much hotter than anything else in the movie. I’m thinking of Rourke in Diner. And mostly I’m thinking of him in Francesco. He was incandescent.

Michael Pitt is the same way. This guy has got it, got it, got it. It’s more than erotic appeal, although plenty of that is present and accounted for. The sexiness isn’t in his body (there are a million just as nice), it’s in how he talks and mostly in the kinetic dimension of catlike grace when he puts his arms around a girl. Something in the way he moves, indeed.

The Delirious script was written years before Pitt joined the project, but there are eerie parallels between Toby the character and Michael, the aspiring actor and emancipated youth who panhandled and slept outside. The real-life Michael Pitt then, for a couple of years, shared a one-bedroom Chinatown apartment with several other struggling kids.

Pitt worked as a bike messenger, which is a hella rough life, whose awfulness is depicted in Tami Hoag’s terrific novel Kill the Messenger. Whoever owns the option on that book, take note: Michael Pitt would be great in the lead. I’m available to write the screenplay.

Apparently in the Cobain-based Last Days, Pitt does his own singing. He also plays guitar and sings in a band called Pagoda, which played at SXSW 2007. In an interview, he talked about finding somebody to play cello like it’s never been played before, which is a noble ambition. Pagoda’s rendition of “Hey Joe” is worthy. In their “Happy Song,” you can see where Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome influenced music videos.

For Delirious, writer/director Tom DiCillo wanted an actor who would be equally plausible climbing out of a dumpster or a limo. Here’s how he describes the character he chose Michael Pitt to play:

There are some people born in this world that are truly innocent. These strange and blessed people somehow keep going, keep the light of hope and trust in their hearts despite the fiercest disappointments. I believe the world is drawn instinctively to these people, partly out of joy and partly out of a desperate longing to somehow consume their beauty and their power.

That paragraph came from DiCillo’s production notes, which are well worth checking out.


Photo: courtesy of
via this Creative Commons license.

RECOMMENDED: 2002 Michael Pitt interview in Movement

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