Delirious

I’ve got this camera click, click, clickin’ in my head.

—ELVIS COSTELLO,
“I’m Not Angry”

Although it doesn’t appear until the end credits, Elvis Costello’s classic 1977 spitfire anthem serves as one of the best movie theme songs—theme in every sense of the word—of recent years. Jealousy, voyeurism, paranoia, acceptance, rejection, denial, the potential for violence, the recognition that it’s all so damn unfunny that it becomes funny—Costello’s song has it all, and so does the fine film to which it’s now been wed.

Director and writer Tom DiCillo’s Delirious, which had a special screening last night in Manhattan at the Angelika, works effectively on so many different levels that it gives new meaning to the term cross-genre. At once a comedic and dramatic Midnight Cowboyish character study of downtrodden friendship, it’s also a love story, a meditation on fame (those who have it vs. those who want it), and a potential stalker flick. Despite its vastly disparate characters, shifts in tone, and wildly divergent plot lines, the movie hangs together remarkably well. Its debts to Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver aside, Delirious is the best movie about wanting to be famous since that other great Scorsese paean to obsessive behavior, 1983’s The King of Comedy. (Both Scorsese films starred Robert De Niro, who receives mention several times in Delirious.)

“Sometimes I see too much,” says Steve Buscemi’s Les Gallantine (even his name is a worthy successor to Rupert Pupkin and Travis Bickle) to Michael Pitt’s Toby Grace. What he doesn’t see is how his chosen profession—that of paparazzi—with each click of his shutter takes something away from his subjects. He proudly displays on his apartment wall two long-range photos of Elvis Costello (who effectively appears as himself in the movie) as if they were big-game trophies.

Following last night’s screening, Tom DiCillo spoke about the making of Delirious, which he spent the last six years bringing to fruition. He couldn’t say enough good things about his star Steve Buscemi, who delivers what might well be the best performance of his career (right up there with his starring role in DiCillo’s 1995 indie classic, Living in Oblivion).

One thing DiCillo couldn’t stress enough about his new film and whether or not it succeeds: “Tell your friends about it.” Indeed, in a movie marketplace where big-name films boast advertising budgets larger than what it cost DiCillo to make his movie (he had to reduce his budget from five million dollars down to three million), word of mouth is more important than ever.

DiCillo told The New York Times last week: “‘Look at the movies people are watching…. They’re about nothing. You invest nothing.'”

Not so with Delirious.

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