Scenes Seen Behind The Scene

April 11, 1991|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

Spy magazine once ran a feature entitled "The Inside Story of the Inside Story," tracking the way in which behind-the-scenes stories, complete to gossip and political maneuverings, had become journalistic staples. Wittily, the piece included the inside story of its own conceptualizing, writing and editing.

That same wacky spirit applies to Nick Broomfield's "Driving Me Crazy," which shows tonight at the Baltimore Film Festival at 9:45, after a 7:30 screening of the Soviet film "The Arsonists." "Driving Me Crazy" drove me hysterical: It's the ultimate inside story, the inside story of itself.

Broomfield was a somewhat disheveled British documentarian hired to make a film about German singer-impresario Andre Weller's attempts to bring a "black musical" to German audiences, with the singers and dancers recruited from the New York theatrical world.

At least that's what he thought it was all about. About a week into the filming, the budget was cut by two-thirds and the concept was changed by about 180 degrees. The producer decided the backdrop of the production might back an interesting background for a feature -- a fictional film -- and he hired a writer to develop a plot and characters. The writer chose to write about a writer trying to write a feature around the making of a documentary around the mounting of a stage show in New York for European audiences.

This surely is one of the most bizarre turns in film history, and either by deadpan shrewdness or simple dogged literalism, Broomfield builds much of the film on his ridiculous relationship with the writer, a self-dramatizing fellow named Joe Lindy, who keeps writing passionate scenes where he -- Joe Lindy, that is -- argues reality vs. fiction with a "fictional" agent.

Nick, who has been making a stock CBS-style objective documentary, keeps asking, "Um, where does this fit in? I just don't see how this is going to work?" His own befuddlement and Joe's zealotry turn the film into one comic set piece after another, particularly a memorable one where the completely self-aggrandizing Joe snaps, "I've said all I'm going to say, aesthetically, pragmatically and businessly!"

But there were other problems, too. For one, Nick tracks his own fluctuating fortunes financially, as the budget kept getting peeled awayand Eurotrash types kept flying in from Munich to look at the rushes, including a guy with, you know, one connected eyebrow. Scary dude. Then there are his efforts to seduce Andre Weller's "personal assistant," all fruitless. And his attempts to get a sense of who Weller was, also fruitless. Weller, sweet and vague, seems to flit away from Nick's cameras.

That leaves endless amounts of bickering. The movie is the champion bicker-o-rama of all times, with dancers and choreographers and producers in a constant state of explosive anxiety, much of it directed at the interruptive Nick and his clumsy crew.

The show, of course, was a raging success, and made everybody a pot o' dough.

Nick Broomfield's little movie, which somehow got finished, will make nobody a pot o' dough, but it's one of the most remarkable inside stories ever filmed.

(For ticket information, call the Baltimore Film Forum at 889-1993.)

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