LIVING IN OBLIVION
Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, $29.95
ANYONE WHO'S worked on a low-budget independent film set—and I count myself among that unhappy number—will recognize the frustrations depicted in Tom DiCillo's 1995 satire (on disc Feb. 11). What he calls on the commentary track "my love-hate relationship with film" is apparent in every frame. So are all the indie-film-world types: the harried director (Steve Buscemi); the prima donna D.P. with the eye patch (Dermot Mulroney); the emotionally fragile actress (Catherine Keener); the preening star (James Le Gros). In fact, DiCillo admits, the Le Gros character was based partly on Brad Pitt, who starred in DiCillo's 1991 Johnny Suede—and who originally agreed to play the Le Gros character here. Apparently Pitt has a sense of humor, though he dropped out to do Legends of the Fall instead (big mistake).
Among scant DVD extras, DiCillo and Buscemi are shown fielding questions after a screening. Buscemi says that playing a director under pressure helped him to direct under pressure when he helmed his first film (Trees Lounge) a few years later. For his part, DiCillo seems fairly bitter about the film biz. But then, it was his bitterness after Suede that gave rise to Oblivion: "I hated the business. I hated everything about it."
Today, Oblivion is almost an elegy for the simpler pre-Tarantino days of indie filmmaking. In this favorite film of many movie lovers, my favorite scene comes when dwarf thespian Peter Dinklage tells off Buscemi about the lameness of using a dwarf in a dream sequence. A sweet endnote: At Sundance this year, the top audience award went to The Station Agent, in which Dinklage stars and gets all the respect his character so craved.
ALSO OUT ON Feb. 11, Criterion is issuing a pristine new transfer of Jean Cocteau's wonderful 1946 Beauty and the Beast, plus a bells-and-whistles version of Terry Gilliam's 1998 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (well-timed to the Gilliam documentary Lost in La Mancha, which opens here on Friday). My Big Fat Greek Wedding and The Fast Runner should be huge on disc, while Fran篩s Ozon's 8 Women and Madonna's Swept Away will have mainly kitsch appeal. As for Steven Soderbergh's ill-conceived Hollywood satire Full Frontal, it makes Oblivion look like genius.