Sunday, June 12, 2016

Living in Oblivion (Tom DiCillo, 1995)



A snapshot of the neurosis, petty frustrations and ego of an independent film shoot, Living in Oblivion is one of the great movies to emerge in the wake of sex lies and videotape and the indie boom of the nineties.

The film is structured as three sequences -- in one, the director tries to capture a pivotal scene in one shot. Take after take, the scene is not working. A car drives by with music blaring, the boom keeps entering the shot, and a kleg light explodes. And when the actors finally get the scene down, the camera isn't running.

Living in Oblivion is not just a great movie from the indie boom of the mid-nineties, it is also a great skewering of the indie boom of the mid-nineties.

Equipment failure, self-absorbed actors, petty disputes... DiCillo paints a wonderful picture of the mundane reality of making a motion picture. 


Steve Buscemi and Catherine Keener are fantastic in this movie. 

Buscemi plays the director, Nick Reve. A gentle soul at heart, he is constantly trying to keep the shoot running while catering to the needs and demands of his cast. When he finally explodes, it is stilted, abrupt and completely unappealing -- and somehow Buscemi still manages to retain the viewer's sympathy.

Keener is Nichole, the lead actress. Throughout the film, she is forced into situations which undermine her confidence -- whether it is trying to build up an empathetic bond with the actress playing her mother, dealing with the consequences of an inappropriate one night stand, or the indignity of having her big scene usurped by a self-obsessed Hollywood heartthrob, Nichole is in hell and Keener shows no fear in revealing her character's flaws.

In terms of the rest of the cast, James LeGros stands out as the A List douchebag who hijacks the shoot, and Peter Dinklage makes a memorable debut as  the small actor hired to play a particularly cliched role in the final sequence.


Living in Oblivion is a terrific picture.  If you love arthouse cinema, you will love it. If you find arthouse cinema pretentious and self-important, you will also love it.

Later this week, The Midnight Ramble will return with a brand new feature...


Catch you then!


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