November 2004

How to Disappear Completely

How to Disappear Completely
How to Disappear Completely is the story of a young photographer (David House) and how he sees the world around him.

Disgusted by his perception of humanity – as represented by a modern shopping centre – he retreats from society choosing instead to photograph animals, wild and in their unspoiled habitat. In order to do this, of course, he has to learn to disappear completely – to become a meaningless part of the scenery, unobtrusive and unnoticed.

The photographer’s philosophy is that if people are too busy to appreciate what is around them, then he can’t be bothered with people. And it’s a philosophy with which he is very happy.

Until the day that he is paralyzed by the sight of a beautiful woman (Michelle Munden)…

How to Disappear Completely exemplifies everything that is good about in short filmmaking. The film is gorgeously shot and tells a simple story – with a genuinely shocking ending - beautifully.

It’s a film that is well worth tracking down.

Ed Wood

Ed Wood
By turns funny, poignant and inspiring, Ed Wood is the story of the director who – on the strength of his obstinate enthusiasm – made a series of low budget films in the 1950s. It’s a pity that none of the films he made were particularly good.

Based on Nightmare of Ecstasy, a biography of Ed Wood constructed entirely from – often contradictory – anecdotes from the people that knew and worked with the director, Ed Wood (the film) is a sympathetic portrayal of Wood’s career from his days as a casual labourer on a studio set to the completion of Plan 9 From Outer Space, his most famous film.

After staging an unsuccessful play in Hollywood, Wood (Johnny Depp) learns that exploitation filmmaker George Weiss is planning to make a film based on Christine Jorgensen – a widely reported transsexual of the time.

Wood pitches to direct the film, claiming that his own transvestism and angora fetish makes him makes him uniquely qualified to tell Jorgensen’s story.

Not surprisingly, Weiss is completely uninterested in Wood’s ideas.

Wood’s chance encounter with his idol – Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau) – and an ever-tightening deadline for Weiss changes things somewhat and, against his better judgement, Weiss hires Wood to direct his sex change film with Bela Lugosi in a starring role.

The immediate result of this collaboration is Glen or Glenda – a surreal plea from Wood for acceptance of his transvestism, as well as his way of coming out to his understandably surprised girlfriend, Dolores Fuller (Sarah Jessica Parker).

It also established the relationship between Ed Wood and Bela Lugosi that was to continue until Lugosi’s death. And to a large extent, it’s this relationship that is at the heart of the film.

Certainly their relationship is mutually beneficial – Lugosi finds himself making films again while Wood continues to use Lugosi’s name in the search for funding for his films.

This double act allows Wood to make Bride of the Monster – Wood’s only successful film and the final straw for Dolores who walks out on Ed after an outburst at the wrap party for the film.

But there is a genuine friendship between Wood and Lugosi as well. When Lugosi finds himself needing help, it’s Ed Wood that he turns to and it’s Wood that convinces him to admit to his addictions and check himself into a rehab clinic.

It’s here, while waiting endlessly for news of Bela’s condition, that Wood meets Kathy O’Hara (Patricia Arquette) and a new romance starts to blossom. This time around, having learned from his experience of hiding his transvestism from Dolores until too late in their relationship – and aided by a fortuitous power cut on a ghost train – Ed plucks up the courage to reveal his fetish to Kathy in order to avoid it becoming a problem later on.

Tim Burton is always at his best when portraying outsiders and misfits, depicting their fundamental dignity in the face of a world that neither understands nor cares about them. In this, Ed Wood is no exception – not only in the case of Ed himself but also with Lugosi, a former star who – for all his addictions – retains both a pride and dignity in a city that no longer cares about him.

The film goes on to cover the making and release of Ed Wood’s most famous (or notorious) film, Plan 9 From Outer Space. And even here, the film focuses on the positive – Wood’s enthusiasm, his willingness to accept people as they are and people’s response to Ed. There aren’t many directors who could convince their entire cast and crew to get baptised just to complete a film, for example.

Ed Wood wasn’t a great film maker, but he was an enthusiast, a dreamer who – against the odds – managed to make the films that he (largely) wanted to make and he was a loyal friend to those around him. And it’s this, more than anything else, which Ed Wood manages to convey.

It’s a great film and one that’s well worth seeing.