' ' Cinema Romantico: An Ode to Ronin's Most Unlucky Extra

Thursday, May 14, 2015

An Ode to Ronin's Most Unlucky Extra

There’s the immaculately comical moment in “Bowfinger” when the titular character and his ramshackle crew are filming Jiff, the hapless double for mega-star Kit Ramsey, for an action shot on a rush hour L.A. freeway. He has to run from one side of the interstate to the other, dodging cars, across the median, to reach the arms of the lady he loves. “That seems kinda dangerous,” Jiff earnestly observes. Bobby Bowfinger laughs. “No, no, no,” he says, “we have professional stuntmen doing the driving so you’ll be completely safe.” It’s technically funny, of course, because, obviously, they are not professional stuntmen, they are normal everyday L.A. drivers suddenly dealing with a maniac running through traffic.

It’s ironic, isn’t it? It makes me think of “Who’s Harry Crumb?”, the oh-right-I-sorta-remember-that John Candy comedy from the 80’s in which the star gets caught crawling in air ducts with a considerable breeze that generates hijinks. My Dad loved that detail, that a ludicrous John Candy comedy was the only movie that ever actually showed air ducts being put to their intended use while so many action films sacrificing joy for solemnity would revel in the air duct ruse solely to advance plot. And it’s no less incredible that an absurdist romp like “Bowfinger” would be the movie to willingly indulge the fantasy that every driver on a freeway is, like, you know, just a commuter.

It’s easy to look at a movie car chase and immediately deduce its inherent fantasy. I mean, take my favorite movie car chase, “Ronin”, the one through the streets of Paris that spurs the third act and contains our dueling automobiles going against traffic for a while. Find it on the Youtubes and the first comment is calling it out over an inane inaccuracy. Them’s the movies these days. You make them to move the world and people watch them to spot continuity errors. It’s so much fun!!! I remember someone telling me, derisively, with a roll of the eyes, that the cars coming in when they were roaring down the tunnel against, as stated, the traffic looked suspiciously far apart, like the director was cuing them up off screen on a headset. And I guess he probably was. Wasn’t he? Or was he not? Or were they, like “Bowfinger”, only the illusion of professional stuntmen? (I, of course, don’t mean this literally, only abstractly, but only abstractly in the context of cinematic truthfulness, by which I mean illusory as the reality.)

This brings me to “Ronin’s” most unlucky extra. What if his name’s Martin? What if he’s a contractor from Chartres? What if he had to take a trip up to Paris to pick up a few supplies? What if he’d just picked them up and was starting on his way back home? What if he was just listening to some MC Solaar and daydreaming about that mademoiselle in the Bugatti EB110 whose eye he’d briefly caught?

And then, suddenly, a car zooms past to his left, going the wrong way, just as another car swerves up alongside him to his right. “What the-”

Godspeed, Martin. We hardly know ye.

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