Thursday, November 23, 2006

Altman's Last Project

I'm still quite sad about Robert Altman's death, but this news bit from Dark Horizons makes me even sadder:
The death on Monday of legendary filmmaker Robert Altman has put into jeopardy Picturehouse's planned feature based on the 1997 documentary "Hands on a Hard Body" reports Variety.

Altman was to direct and produce the film which was slated to go into production early next year, and spent this past weekend calling agents trying to secure casting attachments for the film.
The film is an adaptation of S.R. Bindler's documentary which focused on an eclectic group of contestants who compete to win a truck by keeping a hand on it for days at a time, taking just short bathroom breaks.

Hands on a Hard Body (IMDB, Amazon) is one of the best documentaries I've seen -- full of very quirky characters and laughs at the complete absurdity of it all, but also a surprisingly heartfelt look at a group of regular folks who will do all they can to grab at the American Dream... as embodied by a pickup truck. This NYTimes review captures this latter view:
To (director S.R.) Bindler's credit, he does not look down on his subjects, an understandable temptation for a hometown boy who went away to N.Y.U. film school. [...] Bindler observes their quirks -- and can't completely hide that he thinks it's strange for the local church to have a "prayer chain" to help Norma win the pickup -- but he looks for each person's humanity and finds it.

When Sydney Pollack made "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" in 1969, the desperation of its dance-marathon contestants was palpable, but the film's Depression-era setting allowed the audience some distance. "Hands on a Hard Body" hits closer to home.

And this old Salon review describes some of the characters:
With the cameras rolling day and night, they become cozily familiar to one another, and to the viewer as well. There's Benny, a second-time contestant who won the truck in 1992 after standing for 83 hours, and who takes on the role of the seasoned sage: "It's like the movie 'Highlander,'" he says ominously. "There can be only one." Norma, who believes God has chosen her to win the truck, has the support of the local church members who form prayer circles and sing hymns in the parking lot. And Kelli, a young student, is fiercely determined to win the truck so she can sell it and get braces.

It seems the annual Hands on a Hard Body contest, sponsored by Patterson Nissan in Longview, Texas, hit a tragic stopping point last year after a contestant committed suicide during the contest.

Man, I wish I had some video of this to embed here, but I can't find anything out in the Internet tubes. I might have to just do some encoding of my rare DVD copy (Amazon is listing used it for $70). Anyone out there got tips on encoding video from a DVD to a flash movie on a Mac? I wonder if anyone out there could help me...

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