John Rufo: An Interview with Jennifer Bartlett - cover photo by Emma Bee Bernstein[*Jennifer Bartlett*is the author of several books of poetry, including, most recently *Autobiography / Anti-Autobiograph...
Monday, October 3, 2011
Ray Brewer's General ashes on Hitler's face
Prop newspaper front of Hitler smudged by ash and scorched by stubbed-out cigarette smoked by the General (Ray Brewer) in his last scene in our movie, Go South for Animal Index, shot Sunday night on location at Atomic Cowboy (signed by Ray and me).
On Sunday we finished shooting Ray Brewer for the movie we are making. The movie is called Go South for Animal Index, a fable of Los Alamos, and Ray plays the General who runs the military side of Lost Almost, our fabled version of Los Alamos.
I wasn't really ready to wrap Ray on the movie, but he has a new acting opportunity and needs to shave the little moustache he grew for the General. We wrapped with Ray, in fact, before we got to the bomb shop and bomb test scenes, which is a shame, but not everything goes your way in the amateur movie business (and our shoot has dragged on more than a year).
Since our fabled version of the night watch before the first successful test of a nucleur bomb (and the Trinity test itself) will now be shot without the General, I needed to come up with an impactful way to wrap up his character's storyline.
I remembered a scene we shot with Ray and George Malich playing the Military Chaplain, when we had to rush wrap George before his sudden brain surgery. Wanting to tie their characters intimately, and mirror a funeral scene they play together early in the movie, we shot the Chaplain confessing the General. We played the scene like the General has to be there, it's his duty, but he doesn't think he has any sins he needs to confess -- he is trying to kill Hitler, who deserves to die; no apologies.
It ocurred to me to play that confession scene very late in the movie. I knew we'd wrap up George's Chaplain -- again, with him away from the Trinity test, since George would not be available to act in that scene -- with an alcoholic meltdown we had shot on our first day of shooting. The Chaplain hides from the final proof of the killing bomb in a bottle. That meltdown is set up, in part, by his failing to confess the General.
I liked the mirroring effect of having the General leave the confessional and, like the Chaplain, experience the completion of the bomb alone. The Chaplain turns to his secret bottle, and the General returns to his cigarette, which he has been trying to smoke all movie but been made to put out over and over -- you can't smoke in the nucleur physics lab, you can't smoke at the funeral, you can't smoke at the confessional.
At the Lost Almost cantina, he can smoke. He smokes and ashes his cigarette on Hitler's face, displayed on the cover of a newspaper displayed throughout the movie. After the successful bomb test -- which we dramatized, shooting on location at Atomic Cowboy, by flashing two bright lights on and off -- the General turns back to his cigarette and stamps it out on Hitler's face.
My childhood friend Richard Skubish, who plays the scientist who dies at Lost Almost (at whose funeral the General is not allowed to smoke), insisted that Ray and I should sign one of the false Hitler fronts for the newspaper we used in the three-take shot; so we did.
There also is some inter-textual fun going on here for me. In our first movie, Blind Cat Black, Ray plays The King of the Zombies. Though he is paid to take out the hit on our hero/ine, The Absent-Minded Tightrope Walker (Toyy Davis), when the deal goes down and the zombies snuff him/her, The King of the Zombie is sitting alone at a bar (CBGB) drinking a goblet of blood. Much like the General having the solitary smoke at the bar when the scientists finally finish the deadly bomb.