Friday, August 7, 2009

Farewell to all that David Copperfield kind of crap

A screenwriter friend of mine once said that there's not much wrong with Hollywood that can't be explained by the fact that the only scripts producers see have survived the process of being quickly read in stacks at night and--for the lucky few--summarized in a paragraph and forwarded by assistants whose age and background leads them to believe that the history of American filmmaking began with John Hughes.

For those young men and women who carry American film culture on their shoulders, the star that lit their way has gone out.

Mr. Hughes turned out a series of hits that captured audiences and touched popular culture — and then flummoxed both Hollywood and his fans by suddenly fading from the scene in the early 1990s. He surfaced sometimes as a writer, occasionally under his pen name, Edmond Dant├Ęs, the real name of the Dumas hero in “The Count of Monte Cristo.”

His seeming disappearance inspired a 2009 documentary, “Don’t You Forget About Me,” by four young filmmakers who went in search of a man who was by then being compared to J. D. Salinger because of his reclusiveness. It became a tribute to Mr. Hughes’s influence on youth culture.

I suppose it's inevitable that anyone who writes about "disaffected youth" (as the Times' obit described Hughes' genre of choice), especially one who disappears at somewhere near the top of their game (for whatever reason), is bound to be compared with Salinger sooner or later.

(Then again, perhaps it's not inevitable after all; I don't seem to remember anyone reaching for the "Salinger" metaphor for Amy Heckerling in the fourteen years since "Clueless." Perhaps that distinction is only reserved for male teenage angst.)

Let's give this young man the last word:

I'm not going to tell you my whole goddam biography or anything. I'll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out here and take it easy. I mean, that's all I told D.B. about, and he's my brother and all. He's in Hollywood. That isn't too far from this crummy place, and he comes over and visits me practically every weekend. He's going to drive me home when I go home next month maybe. He just got a Jaguar. One of those little English jobs that can do around two hundred miles an hour. It cost him damn near four thousand bucks. He's got a lot of dough, now. He didn't use to. He used to be just a regular writer, when he was home. He wrote this terrific book of short stories, The Secret Goldfish, in case you never heard of him. The best on in it was "The Secret Goldfish." It was about this little kid that wouldn't let anybody look at his goldfish because he's bought it with his own money. It killed me. Now he's out in Hollywood, D.B., being a prostitute. If there's one thing I hate, it's the movies. Don't even mention them to me.

No comments: