Art imitated his life, and that was that

Director: Jason Freeland saw too much of himself in his troubled character and decided to turn his reality around.

April 24, 1999|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

Who says that art can't change your life?

While Jason Freeland was editing "Brown's Requiem," his adaptation of James Ellroy's first novel, he found himself relating in an unsettling way to the film's main character, Fritz Brown.

Brown, played in the movie by Michael Rooker ("Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer"), is a hopeless alcoholic who's been fired from his job as a Los Angeles cop -- the only thing that gave his life meaning. As Freeland, 31, considered the image of a man who can't connect his despair with his own self-destruction, he realized that Brown's experience resonated deeply with his own.

"I was at this point where finally I was getting a chance to direct a film, which was what I wanted to do for so long in my life, since I was 18 years old. I kept holding that out as what will make me happy. And I started to see that it wasn't the case."

Freeland realized that his longtime obsession with writing, making and watching films allowed him to "escape my life. I wasn't enjoying it," he said about the editing process. "I really saw how much I identified with him." Freeland says he stopped drinking while finishing "Brown's Requiem."

Along with Rooker, "Brown's Requiem" features a notably eclectic cast, including Kevin Corrigan, Harold Gould, Brad Dourif and Valerie Perrine.

Freeland op- tioned "Brown's Requiem" after hearing the author on a National Public Radio program. Freeland, who grew up in Stevenson and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, was then a student at the University of Southern California film school. After acquiring the rights, Freeland adapted the book himself and finally began principal photography this time last year.

"Brown's Requiem" made its U.S. premiere at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in March and has been enjoying brisk business abroad, having been picked up for theatrical release in Belgium, Holland, Japan and France. A U.S. deal has yet to be cut. But Freeland is counting on the enduring appeal of film noir, as well as the bump in interest in Ellroy as a result of "L.A. Confidential," to ensure the movie's theatrical future.

"We've had several offers for the film, and what I've said to everyone is just wait. My feeling is all that's going to still be there, and let's just see what happens."

Jason Freeland will present "Brown's Requiem" at 8 tonight at the Charles Theatre. `Trash' pickup

When "Divine Trash" is seen at the Maryland Film Festival this weekend, it will be an anniversary of sorts, albeit a bittersweet one.

"This is the first time it's been shown publicly since almost a year ago," said the film's director, Steve Yeager. "Divine Trash," Yeager's documentary about the early career of John Waters, made its world premiere at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival and won the filmmaker's award.

Having been co-financed by the Independent Film Channel, the movie was acquired for theatrical distribution by Stratosphere Entertainment and seemed destined to have a happy future until the fateful screening at the Senator Theatre on May 5 last year. That's when a Stratosphere executive saw that Yeager had made some cuts in the film. He balked at releasing the movie and refused to return the 35mm print of the film, which Stratosphere had spent $50,000 to make.

After a year of legal tussling, Yeager finally picked up his movie earlier this week in New York. Besides its showings this weekend, it will also be screened at the Washington International Film Festival on April 30 and May 1.

"I hope it'll be out in theaters by the end of the summer," Yeager said. "This is the only film that won a major award at Sundance that hasn't been distributed."

"Divine Trash" will be shown tomorrow at 1 p.m. at the Charles Theatre.

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