Cinematic Releases: Tabloid Vivant

Andrew reviews the aggravatingly snooty Tabloid Vivant.

Let's play a game. 
Just recently I reviewed Norman Mailer's Tough Guys Don't Dance and like the Nicolas Cage-tastic Zandalee I was awestruck by both movies' shared use of my least favorite adjective in critical vocabulary: pretension.  In particular, there's a scene in Zandalee where Judge Reinhold utters the line "I'm a paraplegic of the soul".  The arena for both movies depicts a cast of self-important yuppies who meet their ends either due to triangular love or random acts of violence.  In both movies, outside of the scenery chewing of Ryan O'Neal and Nicolas Cage I wanted to pretty much murder everyone of these over-privileged dilettantes onscreen.  Where the milieu of snooty characters proved to be charmingly hilarious in Tommy Wiseau's The Room, Zandalee and Tough Guys Don't Dance fall closer to the likes of Rick Alverson's The Comedy in which it doesn't take long for you the viewer to hate the film's characters and the pseudo-intellectual sensibility behind the film they inhabit.  Which brings us to Tabloid Vivant, a self-described "surreal thriller" about the inane pillow talk ramblings of British art critic Sara Speed (Tamzin Brown) in bed with artist Maximilien Klinkau (Jesse Woodrow) in the act of creating a literal living interpretation of the film's title.  Only twenty minutes into this thing, our central and esteemed art critic Sara Speed (Tamzin Brown) utters the line "I have this, um, it's like a new app with a film noir filter, it's so cool!" and I knew there and then I was in bad company.  It only got worse before it got any better.

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This student film thesis better suited for college art classes isn't either sure whether it wants to pat itself on the back for drawing influences from David Lynch or Stanley Kubrick (yes, writer-director Kyle Broom has the gall to league himself with two of cinema's most distinguished masters) or whether it has anything of substance to say about the art world.  Where Martin Scorsese's Life Lessons or Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev brought about both the struggle of creating art as well as offering keen insight into the men donning the paintbrushes, Tabloid Vivant is kind of just about this poor man's James Franco wandering about his country home like Michael Pitt's Kurt Cobain from Last Days: drunk, dissheveled and often shirtless.  Never once did I care about or for either of these self-important caricatures of the art world and scenes of Tamzin Brown frolicking about naked, covered in paint again couldn't help but remind me of that scene where Nicolas Cage freaks out and smears paint all over himself from head to toe in ZandaleeTabloid Vivant also seems to have it's very own laugh track built in with many scenes where a character makes a pun and the film follows it up with a dramatization of said pun for chuckles, Family Guy style.  The many moments like these peppering Tabloid Vivant are not only not funny or revealing, they just make you angry and annoyed.  There's even a scene where Klinkau expresses curiosity about Speed's article she's writing on his new painting process and she recites verbatim Jack Nicholson's speech from The Shining about 'breaking my concentration', never missing a beat.  

I don't like the way this feels. 
I really lost track of how many times I said aloud 'I hate this movie' while watching Tabloid Vivant.  Sure the acting is fine, the camera is in focus and some of the locations are scenic.  I'm also all for sitting through pictures with insufferable characters, The Rules of Attraction, Greenberg and Inside Llewyn Davis among them.  But as I watched Sara Speed strut about Maximilien Klinkau's country cabin in stilettos sipping on a glass of wine in between writing another half a paragraph on Klinkau every other half hour, the only thing that kept me from abandoning this picture out of sheer contempt was that fact that sometimes we film critics have to take one for the team every now and again.  Whenever I hear the words 'surreal' or even 'Lynchian' going into a picture with an open mind, I can't help but get cold feet because more often than not, the film at the end of the day runs the risk of being an irritating wannabe who uses all the same instruments without knowing what music to play.  It's so easy to use surrealism in film now that to default on the iconography established by Lynch seems more like a virtue than a vice.  When the end result is that we're stuck with a snooty film thesis masquerading as a "surreal thriller", you have to wonder whether or not the hard earned efforts of Luis Bunuel or Alejandro Jodorowsky proved beneficial to the film world after all.


- Andrew Kotwicki