Days Are Numbers Film Night No. 9 – Smithereens
Eight film nights down, and to our shame, Days Are Numbers have yet to show a film by a female director. That’s all about to change with Film Night No. 9, however, as we’re proud to present Susan Seidelman’s punky indie trailblazer Smithereens.
One of the most successful female film directors of the 1980s, Seidelman is still most famous for helming the snazzy smash hit mistaken identity comedy-thriller Desperately Seeking Susan – which also remains the only decent film Madonna has ever acted in! Before she made that, however, she made her directorial debut on a low-budget film with a similarly grimy NYC milieu and another winning turn from an era-defining musician. Erstwhile Voidoids frontman and punk pioneer Richard Hell might not be a match for Madge in the fame stakes, but Smithereens itself is a superior film to the later …Susan and is well worth seeking out (although not necessarily desperately as we will be screening it at the Montpelier in Peckham on 29/11/2012).
Susan Berman (who only really went on to crop up in a few more Seidelman films, possibly as a result of being called Susan) stars as Wren, a pushy punkette bent on becoming a star despite having no discernible talent. During a routine outing distributing promo pictures of herself around the lower-east side of Manhattan, our heroine first encounters Paul, an earnest young out-of-towner who develops genuine feelings for Wren and is determined to help her to a better life by taking her away from New York and into the rural bliss of New England. Unfortunately for him, she also falls in with Eric, a scuzzy, lower-rung rock star (guess who plays him?!) who proceeds to whisper tales of a road trip to L.A. and sure-fire stardom into her other ear. Which suitor will she chose?
Smithereens is an engaging and shabbily offbeat comedy-drama that could almost carry the subtitle A Cautionary Tale for Hipsters – and in this respect its message remains fresh and its characters instantly recognisable (you could easily put together a remake set in Hoxton, perhaps with Pete Doherty in the Hell role?). You could almost say that Seidelman’s film plays out like a new wave reimagining of Fellini’s similarly-pitched Nights of Cabiria, and to even mention it in the same breath is testament to what a strong film Smithereens really is. And even if you’re just too straight-laced and gosh-darn responsible to identify with Wren’s admittedly rather self-inflicted predicament, then I can guarantee you’ll still get a great big kick out of the genuine downtown early 80s Noo Yoik locales and the pulsating period soundtrack.
Speaking of which, while the film itself is The Richard Hell Show, the best moments of the Smithereens soundtrack are undoubtedly served up the great lost US new wave band The Feelies. You can check out one of their contributions in the trailer wot we just made below…c