Local Color

9/8/09 Update:
Now on DVD

Director: George Gallo

In Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire, Dorothy Boyd (Renee Zellweger) tells Cruise’s title character that while she does care about money, mainly she just wants to be inspired. In a perfect world, Hollywood would operate by this sentiment as well—caring about the money since it is a business after all but realizing that more than anything, people want to be inspired or truly moved by pictures. People movers are rare and usually come today in the form of the tried and true underdog sports movies when made by major studios aping the Rocky paradigm but there’s been a resurgence of uplifting films made by independent sources that have been cropping up lately. A few years ago there was a beautiful picture called Spring Forward that sadly too few people heard about and this year, with George Gallo’s Local Color which has been launched in a grassroots campaign after winning awards at a few festivals including Sedona and Ft. Lauderdale is relying on youtube and the strength of word-of-mouth advertising. I saw the film yesterday afternoon as part of the Phoenix test market and Gallo himself was in attendance to moderate a Q&A and also share the story of his struggle to, along with his producer, mortgage their homes in order to fund the picture as Hollywood believed that nobody would want to see a film without sex or violence about mentorship. Of course, if Hollywood has learned anything from the 2007 box office and viewer’s disinterest in attending movies about a war they do not support by their absence at pictures such as In The Valley of Elah or Rendition, it should be that in this time of violence and deaths of countless troops overseas, perhaps it is time for them to take the phrase “moving picture” seriously. Perhaps as well it is time for them to strive to inspire us once again the way that cinema was utilized in the 1930’s and 40’s during the Great Depression and World War II. This isn’t a na├»ve statement as we still need films that make us cry as well as take notice of our contemporary society by holding up a mirror to it and if buffs will remember the aforementioned era did bring us The Grapes of Wrath and others, but we also need films to care about, movies like Local Color that remind us again to pursue our dreams and to hell with those who try and get us to stop being true to ourselves as people and as artists.

Midnight Run and Bad Boys screenwriter George Gallo turned away from cop buddy comedies and used his own life as the inspiration for this film about John Talia Jr. (Trevor Morgan), an eighteen year old aspiring painter who defies his homophobic father and well-meaning but admittedly baffled parents in the summer of 1974 by befriending the cantankerous, alcoholic truly gifted artist Nicolai Seroff and accompanying the elder man to Pennsylvania to learn about art in the country. Critics and filmgoers who have seen this storyline numerous times will begin to draw parallels to The Karate Kid and Finding Forrester (among others) as art lessons are put on the back burner in favor of life lessons but Gallo’s film defies the static structure of the underdog genre by opting for entire scenes of (gasp) conversation over making sure to hit a key plot point here or there. It’s these scenes filled with dialogue and wonderfully tongue-in-cheek humor that artists will appreciate that make viewers instantly aware of Gallo the writer but his capable cast, most notably newcomer Morgan and veteran Mueller-Stahl who came out of retirement to make the film. The main actors help ignite their scenes with other cast members such as the scene-stealing Ron Perlman as a pretentious artist and philosopher who has what he deems are life-changing arguments on the state of art in America repeatedly until it culminates in a deliciously nasty bit of humor when the tables are turned at the dinner table. Perhaps one of the most important characters of the film is the beautiful cinematography that subtly evolves in color intensity as the young man becomes better at his chosen craft and the leisurely pace of the piece is a far cry from the breakneck eighteen day shoot in New Orleans. Sadly the film wrapped five days before the horrifying disaster of Hurricane Katrina and as Gallo noted in his interview on The Big Picture Radio, most of the locations used in the film are now gone.

Based on the reaction of the Phoenix audiences and the help of Arizona theatre chain owner Dan Harkins who saw the film at the Sedona International Film Festival and gave Gallo the opportunity to fill one of his largest theatres at the Camelview Art-house location, I’d like to say that Local Color will go into wide release so that other cities in America will have the chance to see this moving and beautiful film but that will remain to be seen based on, in the opposite words of Maguire’s Dorothy Boyd, the money as opposed to the film’s natural ability to inspire.