In the clown player’s 1991 film “The Drug Movie”, the art of cinema verite is taken to heights of realism not seen since Roberto Rosselinni’s triumphant “Rome, Open City”. By combining realistic settings, lighting, sound, etc. with keenly observant camera placement, the filmakers draw us into a world very few of us ever actually see outside the comforts of a theater. Dziga Vetov, in his essays on the nature of man as seen through the “Kino-Eye”, touched upon something that the makers of “The Drug Movie” are obviously very aware of. That is, the camera, more so than anything human, will see to the core of its target. Beyond the actors, beyond the sets and special effects, is the soul of the film. If the emotion is pure and the situations genuine, than the camera is but a window to the truth. The Clown Player’s have crafted a finely nuanced example of this cinematic honesty with “The Drug Movie”.
The film’s opening is startling and immediately draws us into the unfolding drama. We are given a brief glimpse of a very annoying girl mentioning her hometown of “Coral Springs Florida!”. The scene quickly shifts to static than the glare of an incandescant ceiling lamp. Within this brief montage, the filmaker’s have raised our expectations and shifted them within a few brief moments. This masterful use of cinematic manipulation is but a foreshadowing of the upcoming events. Nothing is what it seems and nothing can be predicted. Like life, this celluloid canvas is painted with the ever-shifting brush of the unknown.
From the lamp, the camera pans to our players. Three males, two white, one black sit around table. As they talk, their dialogue is somewhat muted and difficult to decifer. It soon becomes painfully obvious that we the viewer are not privy to this cabal. Again, the Clown Player’s continue to exhibit complete control over their audience. As the camera cuts in for a closer view of the group, we finally hear the topic of their intense exchange. Two of the men are working diligently on a model car. One of them, Lance ( Chriss Celentano, beautifully underplaying his rather nebbish character) is thoroughly absorbed in his work. Across from him, Dirk (Big A in another of his unfortunately underdeveloped characterizations) flips through an instruction book. The clowns have blocked their scene in order for the viewer’s attention to fall upon the young man seated at the head of the table. Judge (Sean Holley shining with charisma and full of piss and vinegar) seems distracted and a bit anxious. It’s painfully obvious that Lance knows this, yet he refuses to yield to Judges squirming. Dirk continues his work diligently while Lance’s ire continues to rise. This bundle of cinematic dynamite is finally ignited with Judge’s outburst. Apparently Judge is bored and needs something new in his rather mundane life. Puzzles and model cars, while fine for Lance and Dirk, no longer appeal to him. It should be noted that the filmakers have done a wonderful job of personofying Freud’s theories on the subconscious. Lance, the ego, is rational thinking and routine. Dirk, the super ego, is prepared for change, but is firmly held in place by Lance’s “ego”. Judge is the Id. He knows the difference between right and wrong, but doesn’t care. He resonates with untapped desires and hungers. Simply put, he is a passionate time bomb.
As Judge finishes his tirade about the conventionality of their lives, Lance tries with subdued tension to calm him. At this point, the filmaker’s unleash their surprise upon us and it is Dirk who is the bearer of the bad news. This night, the filmakers are letting us know, will not be another night of plastic models and puzzle games. Judge, in his tirade, has made an impact on Dirk. Two of the three elements of the subconscious are in agreement and Lance can do nothing, but watch helplessly as his once safe world spins hopelessly out of control. How do the Clown Players present this rather shocking turn of events? Instead of a ridulous camera trickery or expensive special effects, the players opt for a more subtle and, therefore, more powerful approach. When Lance responds to Judge’s outburst he initially appears to patronizingly ape Lance’s response. “Oh we can get something to eat or go to a movie. What else are we to do?