Friday, December 14, 2007

Zeroville, Must Read

A strange, trippy, absolutely un-put-downable novel, Steve Erickson's Zeroville is a must-read for anyone with more than a passing interest in movies and movie history. The tale of an idiot savant cineaste ("cineautistic" is how he's described) who wanders west from Philly to the bright lights and backlots of Hollywood, Zeroville abounds with references to pictures known and forgotten, revered and obscure: First off, Vikar Jerome, the hero, has a tattoo of Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor, from A Place In the Sun, etched on his shaven head. (Ignorami in the book -- plural for ignoramus, right? -- mistake the movie duo for James Dean and Natalie Wood .)

Bunuel, Bogart, Antonioni, De Palma, Gary Cooper, Godard, the softcore Emmanuelle
series, Wim Wenders, Bergman, Altman, Chandler, Mallick, Pam Grier, Houston, Hawks, Bresson, Sturges, Joan Crawford, Eastwood, D.W. Griffith, The Battle of Algiers, The Shining, Elephant Man, Disney's Pinocchio, Mosumura, Black Narcissus, In a Lonely Place.... The films, the stars, the directors swirl around in the consciousness of the disturbed but brilliant Vikar, as Erickson leads the reader on a journey through the dark, glitzy L.A. universe, from the late-'60s on.

On top of being simply a great read, Erickson's deconstruction of the editing of George Stevens' A Place In the Sun, has to be some of the best analysis of filmmaking and film theory ever put to print. Zeroville, By Steve Erickson (Europa Editions, $14.95).