Sunday, May 30, 2021

ZEROVILLE (2019) (MVD Marquee Collection Blu-ray review)


Label: MVD Marquee Collection 
Region Code: A

Rating: Unrated
Duration: 96 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: James Franco 
Cast:  James Franco, Megan Fox, Seth Rogen, Joey King, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Jacki Weaver, Dave Franco, Mike Starr, Horatio Sanz, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Will Ferrell

Zeroville (2019) is 
based on the 2007 novel of the same name by author Steve Erickson and is directed by and stars James Franco (The Pineapple Express) as Vikar, a seminary school dropout who finds himself in Hollywood to pursue his dream of working on the movie business in the late-sxties. His arrival coincides with the Manson Family murder of Sharon Tate and company, his introduction to Hollywood being an interrogation by a pair of L.A. cops, Danny McBride (This Is The End) and Mike Starr (Funny Farm), who find him sleeping in a public space near the murder site. 

Vikar is quite conspicuous, what with his shaved head featuring images of actors Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor, from his favorite film A Place in the Sun, tattooed on the back of his bald head. Vikar quickly finds work constructing sets for Hollywood films as part of the art department, and then after an accidental meeting with veteran film editor Dotty (Jacki Weaver, Picnic At Hanging Rock), a stand-in for legendary Hollywood editor Verna Fields, becoming an apprentice editor, even working on Francis Ford Coppola's (Horatio Sanz, SNLApocalypse Now after befriending an unhinged The Viking, a stand-in for John Milius, played by Seth Rogen (Observe and Report).

As Vikar's involvement in the creative process deepens, so too does his burgeoning career as a Hollywood film editor, but he is sidetracked by his fascination with a doomed screen goddess named Soledad (Megan Fox, Jennifer's Body), a stand-in for Jess Franco muse Soledad Miranda (Vampiros Lesbos), his obsession with her blurring the boundaries between reality and fantasy.

I have not read the source novel but Franco's adaptation is both fascinating and a train wreck, and I love that about it. It's a delirious tribute to movie making and an unhinged tale of cinematic obsession, with Vikar obsessing over scenes from Sunset Boulevard, David Lynch's midnight movie Eraserhead, Jess Franco's Vampyros Lesbos, and Carl Dreyer's silent black and white film The Passion of Joan of Arc, along the way discovering that every film ever made contains remnants from a single film trapped within it's frames.  

It's a madcap, hallucinatory watch, and if you're a cinema lover there's a lot here to love, but it is a hot, self-indulgent mess, but as a surreal cinematic fever dream it's quite enjoyable on that level, even if a lot of what it seems to be tapping into is forgotten along the way. 

Scenes of Rogan as Milius waving a .45 pistol in the face of Francis Ford Coppola and Stephen Spielberg (Kevin Makely) at a Hollywood beach house party are fun, as are Vikar attending an Iggy & the Stooges gig at CBGB's, and Will Ferrell chewing up the scenery as Hollywood producer Rondell who is both enthralled by Vikar's talent and irritated by his loose-cannon ways. 

How Franco was able to conjure late-sixties Hollywood on a shoestring budget is commendable, as are recreations of huge napalm explosions on the set of Apocalypse Now, but the Soldeadad obsession and secret film conspiracy that seem to be the heart of the story, along with Vikar's love f cinema, don't always stick the landing, but I appreciate the films willingness just go with it. There are so many characters popping-up throughout the film, that beach house part I mentioned is also attended by Martin Scorsese (Thomas Nicholas, American Pie), Brian De Palma (Chris Messina, Birds of Prey), Paul Schrader (Derek Waters, Comedy Central's Drunk History), and George Lucas (Ryan Moody). There's also a fun appearance from Craig Robinson (Hot Tub Time Machine) as a burglar with a true love of cinema. 

Audio/Video: Zeroville arrives on Blu-ray from MVD Visual as part of their MVD Marquee Collection imprint, the 1080p HD image is framed in 2.35:1 widescreen and looks quite giood with crisp detail, natural color saturation and deep blacks. Audio comes by way of English DTS-UF MA 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround with optional English subtitles. The only extras on the disc are a selection of trailers for the film and other MVD Marquee Collection titles. 

Obviously Franco is a filmmaker with a lot happening right now, facing the consequence of allegations of inappropriate or sexually exploitative behavior from multiple women, so that's problematic to say the least. Setting that aside I enjoyed the film, but it's a hot mess and not the most coherent or well-acted by Franco either, but dang, it's a cinematic fever dream that was not ever dull, at least for me. Recommended if you're into Roman Polanski's The Ninth Gate - speaking of problematic filmmakers - or something along the lines of the Hollywood hot-mess Under The Silver Lake

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