Monday, November 19, 2007

Indy, Jr.

A good friend was in town last week, and he expressed a desire to see something while here that he probably wouldn't be able to catch in Birmingham, where he currently lives. (We met years ago in Texas, where he's from.) I suggested we try to catch adults relieving themselves on a subway platform, but the friend narrowed his suggestion -- he meant something cultural.

He found a listing for a documentary about innovative saxophonist Albert Ayler playing at Anthology Film Archives. That movie's run had stopped the previous day, but I saw that Anthology was offering something I had read about a few years ago and since forgotten -- Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, a shot-for-shot remake of the original done by three kids in Mississippi. They began filming in the early 1980s, when they were 12, and finished the project seven years later.

The crowd waiting to get in was formidable (the theater doesn't offer advance sales), but we managed to secure tickets. Two of the filmmakers, now in their late 30s, were in attendance -- Chris Strompolos, who plays Indiana Jones, and Eric Zala, who directed and plays Jones' nemesis, Dr. Belloq. They introduced the feature by advising us to "let the Betamax wash over you." And indeed, the visuals and (especially) the sound left a lot to be desired, but the project didn't. As Sarah Hepola once wrote in the Austin Chronicle (the rarely-shown movie was first publicly screened in 2003 at Austin's Alamo Drafthouse Cinema):
Everything is here – the rolling boulder, the live snakes, the heart-thudding truck sequence, and everywhere flames, flames, flames. The boys have made a few inventive substitutions – a puppy dog stands in for a monkey, a boat for a plane. But even more impressive are the things they don't substitute – a submarine, a truck on fire, a melting face, the same copy of a 1936 Life magazine used in the original.
Afterwards, the pair answered several questions from the thoroughly geeked-out audience. Their insights into the process were funny and harrowing, and you'll eventually have the chance to learn them for yourself -- Daniel Clowes is currently writing a screenplay for a major-studio release about the kids' making of the movie. In the meantime, here's a BBC review of The Adaptation:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

...from Birmingham. This project was truly an amazing feat of idealistic youthful exuberance. Six years of summers dedicated to an essentially pointless but enormous project with no goal other than itself is a show of dedication and attention that I think has been leached out of todays GenXers. I mean, They didn't even have videotapes to re-watcch the movie on until hte last two years. These kids were too young to know what they couldn't do and, hence, did something great. Great to me anyway. That's what I find fascinating about it. That and the shear insanity of 12 year-olds dressed as bearded nepalese henchmen stumbling around an unsupervised basement conflagration while they themselves are actually on fire - ACTING FOR A BETAMAX CAMERA!

4:38 PM  

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