'Painting the Town': Paint it blah, you devil

December 07, 1992|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

Andy Warhol once said that everyone will be famous for 1 minutes, and for Richard Osterweil 15 minutes would have been just fine. Unfortunately, filmmaker Andrew Behar gives him a full hour and a half and the Charles gives "Painting the Town," Richard's story, two days.

Why did anyone make a movie about this creepy guy? Another in an endless, sad line of self-invented, self-important, self-delusionary semi-celebs, Richard dishes incessantly about himself for a very long time while Behar's pandering camera records every precious nuance and inflection.

Richard is an "artist" who never sells or even exhibits -- a taxi driver who paints, in other words -- but his hobby is crashing Manhattan society parties and hobnobbing with the swells.

Great life, Richard. Free finger food and banal patter with boring drips named Roger or Peter who talk through their noses about how trashy Saint-Tropez has become. The women are broomsticks dipped in cocoa butter and jewels, the men's eyes are suspiciously close together, as if a few too many cousins slept with a few too many aunts way back when. "Society" is only interesting when chorus girls kill scions or scions kill chorus girls. Otherwise, who cares?

Richard may think he's a Tru Capote for our times, but he has no flair with language, no storyteller's mesmerizing presence. His only virtue is his utter shamelessness.

His adventures among these mutants aren't even dramatized, but merely narrated in Richard's sing-song voice, building wanly to punch lines that are never there. My favorite was the one in which he went through Katharine Hepburn's trash and found -- trash! Richard, that's so amusing! Or the time he signed the People's Republic of China Embassy list, "Scarlett O'Hara, Tara, Buford County, Ga."! So droll, Richard, you bad boy!

"Painting the Town" is one of those painfully ingrown New York kind of documents, which simply proves that for all its pretension, the Big Apple is just another provincial burg, vulnerable to the humbug of pretenders. Richard is so mundane he makes Cleveland look avant-garde.

Oh, and did I tell you? It's in murky 16mm, so dark you can hardly make it out.


"Painting the Town."

Starring Richard Osterweil.

Directed by Andrew Behar.



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