For every indie film success story like Kevin Smith or Richard Linklater, there are hundreds, probably thousands, of would-be auteurs who sink their life savings into their dream movie projects and never see a penny in return. Nobody knows this better than your humble Film Threat minions, who sift through box after box stuffed to bursting with the end results of these endeavors in order to bring you these scintillating reviews. But what happens to these budding Kubricks and Scorseses once they’ve come face to face with the cold reality of rejection? Do they continue to plug away, certain that the cream rises to the top and their talent will eventually be recognized? Or do they throw in the towel, declare bankruptcy and go find a real job?
These questions go unanswered in “In Hock and Staying There” a quasi-documentary and exercise in self-exploitation from Chicago filmmaker Joe Alexandre. Other questions left unresolved include “What the hell am I looking at?” and “Why did anyone think this was a good idea?” If Alexandre wants to be a big-time director, it’s clear he’s got some of what it takes; namely rampant narcissism and an endless capacity for self-indulgence. What he lacks is any clear conception of how to shape a movie, or any awareness of what an audience might be interested in sitting through.
Instead we are treated to the director’s rambling, self-pitying, monotone monologues on the perils of low-budget filmmaking, interspersed with appearances by his alleged “alter ego”, a blowhard in a wife-beater who keeps interrupting to insist that Alexandre is wasting his time. I’d want to buy this guy a beer if his sound bites didn’t get repeated five hundred times each through the course of the movie.
Alexandre keeps getting rejection letters from film festivals, though we learn nothing of the film he is submitting and therefore have no way to judge whether the blow-offs are justified. Though he is turned down by the Chicago Underground Film Festival, he attends as a dealer, hoping to sell a few video copies of his movie. He also interviews some of his fellow filmmakers. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should point out that one of these interviewees is my Film Threat colleague Merle Bertrand. Naturally, every second Merle is onscreen is pure gold.
The same can be said for David “The Rock” Nelson, a former street preacher and the true heir to the Ed Wood throne, who makes creature features in his back yard that pit Frankenstein and Dracula against Saddam Hussein (excuse me, Sodom Insane). Why couldn’t Alexandre have followed this nut around for a few days? Instead, “In Hock and Staying There” devolves into a bizarre and painfully unwatchable revenge fantasia, complete with cacophonous soundtrack overlaps and endless tape loops. It’s supposed to be artsy, I think. One thing’s for sure – “The Rock” wouldn’t like it either.