' ' Cinema Romantico: CIFF Report: Waiter & Dirt Nap

Monday, October 16, 2006

CIFF Report: Waiter & Dirt Nap

In the French film "Waiter", Edgar is a, uh, waiter at a French restaurant. He is mocked and humiliated by his customers. His neighbors play loud music and throw trash in his yard. His wife is very sick but also having an affair with her doctor. Edgar is, in fact, having an affair himself but it's not going all that well. And fed up with this life, Edgar goes to the apartment of the man writing his life story and demands some changes.

Wait, what was that? Yes, you read it correctly. The story running parallel to Edgar's is that of the writer concocting the tale of Edgar. "You can't come here!" he yells at Edgar. "You're fictitious!" This is obviously a very unique concept. In fact, if you wanted to generalize you could call it rather Charlie Kaufmann-esque.

And sure enough, Edgar gets some changes. His sick wife is taken out. But to make up for that, other things happen to Edgar. And Edgar keeps coming back. And, lo and behold, other characters show up to question the writer's decisions. And then the writer's girlfriend is questioning his decisions. And then his girlfriend is locking him in the bathroom so she can type a few paragraphs. And before long the story starts to get out of hand.

It's a sharp, tight movie that is funny and very well done. And I suppose I hate to be one of those people who says 'What is this movie trying to say?' but I feel I have no choice in this matter. In this day and age the notion of one screenwriter or one screenwriting team getting to follow their work all the way down to the end is becoming less and less common. Now studios think it's a good idea to bring in another writer, and then another one, and then another one ("Armageddon" used nine) to re-write and re-write again. Sometimes a writer comes in solely to scribe a single scene. How the hell does this work? They have no clue about anything else that's going on in the script, or how the characters behave throughout, and are then asked to pretend as if they do? The writing suffers and, as a result, the movie suffers.

Many audience members around me were grumbling as the third act became more out-there and made less and less sense in the conventional way. Exactly.

Of course, I must admit that sometimes you do want someone hanging around to kick the writer in the rear when his script is clearly not working. "Dirt Nap" was co-written and directed by actor D.B. Sweeney with all the grace of a Jessica Simpson song. It is the story of three friends who all lead miserable lives and set out on a road trip in order to.........oh my God, does it even really matter?

Let me sum the whole thing this way. A few years ago I had a discussion regarding the possibility of using the Bruce Springsteen song "When You're Alone" over a movie montage. It's a fantastic song, don't get me wrong, but I felt this would a horrendous idea. I mean, the name of the song is "When You're Alone". The chorus goes like this - "When you're alone, you're alone. When you're alone, you ain't nothin' but alone." To use this song over a movie montage would not just be hammering your point home, it would be jackhammering it home. It would be grabbing your viewer by the back of his or her head and repeatedly beating it against the cement of your point. He's alone, get it?! HE'S ALONE!

Can you guess what song "Dirt Nap" uses over a particular montage?

So yeah, sometimes you do wish a few of the characters would barge into the writer's apartment and wonder aloud, "Are you kidding me with this crap?"


Anonymous said...

In your 4th paragraph you make a reference which gives the illusion that "Armageddon" is a bad movie. This may have been simply overlooked by your editor, but can be easily remedied by adding at the end of the paragraph "...with the exception of "Armageddon."

Anonymous said...

My apologies for giving an illusion. I assure you this was not our blog's intention. Allow me to state it clearly for the record. "Armageddon" is a BAD movie.

Wretched Genius said...

I would like to add that if movies never brought in extra writers to work on a single scene, we never would have gotten to hear Robert Shaw tell his story of the USS Indianapolis. That scene was written by Howard Sackler (who was already doing a rewrite of Benchly's script, which didn't have this scene), then rewritten by John Milius, then rewritten again by Robert Shaw himself.

Rory Larry said...

As an academic, and one who has read countless scholarship by people reading far too much into the work of another. I think you are reading far too much into the meaning of this film "Waiter"

Anonymous said...

As a pretend academic, I believe Mr. Prigge is exactly correct in his assertion that the film "Waiter" is allegorically describing that one time I was playing with my GI Joe's and I dropped Hawk and he broke and I wanted to cry, but then put on some Bruce Springsteen and instead got drunk. Man, what I'd give to be nine again....