Sunday, August 8, 2010

Video on Demand with Abe: Colin Fitz Lives!

Colin Fitz Lives!
Directed by Robert Bella
Released August 4, 2010 on Video on Demand

Ever wondered what it would be liked to reach into a movie time capsule and pull out a relic from over a decade ago that barely saw the light of day? “Colin Fitz Lives!” played at Sundance and a number of other film festivals back in 1997 and never got a theatrical release. Now, thirteen years later, the film is readily available in homes around the country on Video on Demand. For one thing, it’s a unique opportunity to see actors like William H. Macy (fresh off of “Fargo”), John C. McGinley (before “Scrubs”), Chris Bauer (well before “True Blood”) and Martha Plimpton (much younger but just as shrewdly entertaining as she is today in guest spots on “The Good Wife” and “How to Make It in America,” reminiscent of Sandra Bernhard). More importantly, however, it’s a fantastic demonstration of how a long-shelved remnant of the recent past plays in today’s world.

In this case, the emergence of this old keepsake goes off with a few kinks but ultimately fares relatively well. It’s part mockumentary and part existential comedy, riffing on metaphors about the impact of one person on an entire society. The legacy of fictional rocker Colin Fitz is recounted by voiceover narration and interviews with diehard groupies during the opening credits, and Fitz’s presence hangs over the entire film without him ever being seen. A universal sense of balking authority and just living life freely emanates from all things related to Fitz. It’s much more serious than any of Christopher Guest’s films (released after this was made), but the premise of the musician is similar.

In terms of plot, “Colin Fitz Lives!” is basically describable as a long night spent by two security guards protecting the grave of the titular deceased rocker. Numerous figures come along and disappear just as quickly and mysteriously as they appeared. It’s best comprehended as a sort of cross between “The Big Kahuna” (made two years later) and the famous Shakespeare play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Those allegedly supernatural elements of the story might just as well be dreams or figments of the security guards’ imagination, and everyone involved certainly does their share of waxing philosophic.

There’s a great current of nostalgia coursing through this film. Obviously, those involved with the film didn’t anticipate it not getting released for thirteen years. Yet the sense of timelessness that Colin Fitz and his music seem to have had mirrors the unique nature of this film, an artifact from the not-so-distant past that might not immediately be recognizable as such. Even more fittingly, the fleeting look that audiences get at all of the supporting characters is indicative of the time that has passed. Some actors, like Macy and McGinley, have found great success in their careers in the time since this film was produced, while lead actors Matt McGrath and Andy Fowle really haven’t done much in that time. This film isn’t nearly old enough to be considered from a classic period by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s very interesting to see the 1990s back again after only a decade-long absence, strangely familiar yet at the same time familiarly strange.


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