Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Hollywood Seagull: From Russia to Malibu
and a high culture do not necessarily go together, but jealousy and
disillusionment are embedded in the town’s very fiber. Considering its central conflicts, resetting
Chekhov’s great tragedy in a Malibu beach estate makes a certain amount of
sense. There is even an important
Russian connection for Michael Guinzburg’s Hollywood
opens today in Los Angeles.
Sorenson (Sorin) is a retired jurist who maintains a palatial Malibu beach
house, but pines for the New York of his early years. He lives with his
grandson Travis Del Mar (Treplyov), who hopes to win his mother’s approval with
his avant-garde short films. Instead, Irene Del Mar (Irina) belittles her son
at every turn, saving her affection for Barry Allen Trigger (Trigorin), a
blockbuster screenwriter, who has yet to write a part for her. She does not think much of her son’s new
lover, Nina Danilov, either. However,
the aspiring Russian actress certainly turns Trigger’s head.
the mutual attraction shared by Danilov and Trigger will further destabilize
the already dysfunctional household.
Love will be mismatched and unrequited for nearly everyone, including
the loyal live-in servants and Dr. Dorn, a longtime family friend (now a breast
implant specialist in Guinzburg’s Hollywoodized version).
viewers already know (or can guess from other Chekhov plays), there is not a
lot of happiness in store for any of these characters. In fact, Guinzburg matches the original
pretty closely, even forcing in the business with the misfortunate water fowl. In
truth, it works better than one might expect.
It is hard to define precisely, but there is a somewhat nostalgic vibe
to the film, sort of like recent vintage Harry Jaglom films, but without the
Jaglom excesses. The mood is also nicely
enhanced by the distinctive score composed by Evgeny Shchukin (with additional
contributions from Doug White), consisting of light classical strings and
elegant piano-and-vibes jazz interludes.
Guinzburg’s real ace in the hole is William “Biff” McGuire as grandfather
Sorenson. He perfectly expresses the
former judge’s world weariness and his spark of wit. He’s the guy you want to sit next to at a
dinner party. The Hollywood Seagull team seems to consider him their Oscar contender,
which makes sense. McGuire is clearly a
long shot, but as an industry veteran (primarily television) going back to the
days of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he
would be a great story should he somehow get the nod.
might not recognize their names, but the rest of the ensemble does not lack for
credits either (albeit of the “small screen” variety). Sal Viscuso is another case in point. The onetime Soap co-star (as Father Timothy Flotsky) finds the perfect tone of Chekhovian
resignation for Dr. Dorn. Barbara
Williams is also razor sharp as the wince-inducing Irene Del Mar, while Lara
Romanoff is certainly convincing as Danilov, the Russian starlet forced to do
reality TV because she cannot soften her accent. However, her scenes with her various romantic
prospects are rather overcooked.
Seagull is a refreshingly stylish and literate production, anchored by
McGuire’s wise and wistful turn. Frankly, it deserves more attention than August: Osage County, a film not so thematically
dissimilar. Recommended for those who appreciate the source material and its
Tinseltown trappings, Hollywood Seagull opens
today (12/27) in Los Angeles at the Downtown Independent, just in time for
Labels: Anton Chekhov, William Biff McGuire