Nothing Lasts Forever
One of the great things about living in London town is The Prince Charles Cinema. Situated just off Leicester Square, it is one of those very rare things in a big city, an truly independent cinema. The Prince Charles is where you go when you want to see something that the big chains deem unsuitable to their clientele. The Prince Charles is where you see the releases you want too see and the classics, most of the time on glorious, proper, film, as cinema is meant to be. The events they program are always enjoyable. Whether it is Max Brooks slagging off the film of his book, Alan Moore being everything you'd hope Alan Moore would be or, as was the case last night, Zach Galligan of Gremlins fame, showing us the film that he made his debut in and was never released, Nothing Last Forever. A added treat for film buffs last night was a 35mm print that had never been through a projector before we saw it last night. Not bad for a 30-odd year old film.
Nothing Lasts Forever was Saturday Night Live writer Tom Schiller's directorial debut. He was crafting a comedy about film, art, love and trying to find your place in the world. Schiller incorporated a love of film that would make any self respecting film geek blush now. He pillaged the vaults of MGM for clips from Intolerance, Birth of a Nation and I Love Lucy, to name but three of many, to flesh out his incredible vision, he just never asked permission and thus sowed the seeds of his baby's downfall. So what is this film about. Zach Galligan plays the youthful Adam Beckett, an aspiring artist who, while asleep on a train in Sweden, has a nightmare about playing Chopin at Carnegie Hall with a player piano. Shocked into returning to a New York that, due to strikes, has been taken over by the Port Authority, his ambition to be an artist requires that he pass the Artist Test. When Adam fails that, he is sent out to the Holland Tunnel to stop unsuitable cars passing into Manhattan by his Supervisor, Dan Aykroyd, in a role as about as long as his appearance in Temple of Doom. Being kind to the down and outs of Manhattan get's Adam entrance to the underground where the dreams and lives of those above are sorted. Adam is tasked with bringing love and art to the Moon, now a commercial zone for bargain shopping seniors, set up by Eisenhower after the Americans landed on the moon in the 50's. Adam stumbles his way to the moon on a Lunar Bus, who's conductor (Bill Murray) is instantly suspicious of Adam, being young and clearly not really looking for bargains. On the moon, Adam meets with the real life alien person of the portrait in his apartment, played by Lauren Tom who would go onto be Ross's girlfriend Julie in Friends and Futurama's Amy Wong. By bringing love to the moon, Adam get his dream of being and artist and he gets to play Chopin for real at Carnegie Hall and he gets the girl.
If I've succeeded in making that sound insane, I've only scratched the surface. Throw in German conceptual art freaks, tiny TV's showing Eisenstein and Eddie Fisher as a lunar bus lounge singer and what you see on the screen literally beggars belief. But, holding it all together is not Bill Murray, but the wonderfully honest and sincere performance by Galligan. Playing Adam with a level of awe-shucks that would have done Mickey Rooney proud (pre his tail chasing and drinking), Galligan anchors the crazy and gives you a way into the madness. His performance means you stop reference spotting and just will the kid on. You want Adam to find his inner Artist and when he does, it is uplifting. Incredibly silly, but still uplifting.
When you see Nothing Lasts Forever you can see why MGM had no idea how to market it. Last night at The Prince Charles, Zach Galligan explained about the change of leadership at the studio at the time and the problems with the plethora of clips Schiller had used which made the film difficult to sell and well over it's budget. While the rights issues were tricky, it was still an S&L film with Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, that had, and still has, bank. The problem was, and really still is, how the hell do you sell this film? It is a very odd film, a film geek's wet dream, but for a wide audience, it is a very tricky deal. Back in 1982-1984, there wasn't the internet to describe something like this virally to a target audience. You have to remember, that in 1984, Ghostbusters AND Gremlins were released on the same day. You could do things like that and still fill theatres. But, as wonderfully, remarkably mental as this is, you can imagine the marketing department at MGM descending into a scene from Glen Garry Glen Ross. When you see this film, you'll see why its a hard sell, but you'll also see a wonderful heart.
If you get a chance to see Nothing Lasts Forever, do it, it is ace. Galligan is a perfectly played centre of sincere calm in a cinematic sea of wonderfully over the top imagery. I hope MGM can cut a deal and get this this film out an special edition Blu-Ray. A commentary with Galligan and Murray discussing how Murray tormented him, and Schiller trying to explain it all, would be worth the price of whatever MGM would charge me. Actually, double that, I'd pay. It'd still be worth every penny.