Apr/May 2013  •   Spotlight

The Filmmaker: Eight Takes

by Grant Faulkner

Artwork by Clinton McKay

Artwork by Clinton McKay

Above Ground

Alexander walked with the slovenly grandiosity particular to an underground filmmaker, his body at once large and commanding, soft and round. Puffy eyes. Grizzled disregard. If he'd stayed married to Victoria, his first wife, she would have buttoned up his shirt before his lecture, told him no one wanted to see the wiry hair on an old man's chest. She lived by a lake now, sold ceramics, baked pies. "I'm making a film about India's brothels," he told her. "Sounds adventurous," she said, rolling her eyes as she turned away. When she met him, he was scared of the dark.


Always a Gentleman

Anisa lifted her legs around Alexander's waist, feeling the pinch of a broom against her back. He liked to fuck before public appearances. It gave him confidence. They found a closet in the basement. He was just three years younger than her father. If they met, they'd joust: two drunken peacocks. "I was a prince and you were a princess a thousand years ago," he whispered. His gravelly baritone, his asynchronous heartbeats. He pranced onstage that night, indulged in his burly wisdom like a prizefighter flexing his muscles. When he went on location, he always sent her flowers. Love forever.


The Aspirant

"I don't believe in harmony. When I see a window, I want to kick it." Cole squinted his eyes tightly, staring at Alexander Van Seultan as if shooting bullets. He listened to his every word, however, even as he fixed on the gold chain around his neck. Van Seultan had probably worn tie-die shirts in the 60s, danced in ridiculous twirls to the Grateful Dead. That was when you could be a pure artist, when movie theaters were palaces, not the cornerstones of strip malls. At a party later, Cole would say to a girl, "I don't believe in harmony."



John Chang remembered Alexander opening the door to a massage parlor in the Tenderloin the first time he interviewed him. Asian darlings sashayed under a tragic disco ball, incense mixing with disinfectant in the air. "You wan' full body massage?" the old mamasan asked. He waited in the candy-colored shadows of the front room, imagining Alexander's whinnying red cock spitting at the girls. The mamasan gave him an orange. Now he and Alexander sat on stage, staring into a sea of furrowed brows. "I'm fascinated by relationships of power and labor," Alexander told him. "That's what my movies are about."



Jimmy Lee could never tell what these artists were talking about. They fancified themselves in their learnings, spoke in tongues. This motherfucker talked all about exploitation, but peed on the damn restroom floor and didn't wipe it up. "Your boots are cool," the filmmaker exclaimed later, flinging back strands of hair. "Where did you get them?" Work boots. Buy 'em at the work clothes store. Someone spilled wine on the carpet at the reception. Another forgot his black leather coat on the rack. The only thing Jimmy Lee knew about these people was that they needed to be cared for.



"Did you ever have sex with the prostitutes you filmed?" an audience member asked. The worst thing about aging was how it voided desire. Alexander's dick burned when he peed now. Women were museum pieces, nothing more. He gazed out into the crowd, spotted a moping undergrad. Unwashed hair, a safety pin fastened in her nose. In another era, he would have smiled at her. She would have taken him to an after-hours party. Her body draped over a sink, his hands upon her waist. The physical and existential shouldn't mix with the sacred. He winked at her. He waited.



"Women look most beautiful clothed," Alexander told Rachana, so she only undressed to her bra and panties. He looked funny, his bulbous stomach hanging over tight bikini underwear. She lay her head on his chest, told him stories, no sex. He paid $100, far more than her other clients in Delhi. No payment for going on stage tonight, though. People's eyes clawed at her, worse than any man. She stole a bottle of wine from the reception, took Alexander's car keys. "I'm in America," she screamed. Her mother would say she was free. Her grandmother would say she was lost.



Vladimir never tired of staring at rain-slicked streets. He drove his cab as if following keening, iridescent voices in puddles, smoking Sobranies, sipping Stoli, so he didn't listen to the drunken man in the backseat. "An artist's bravery is like a soldier's," the man bellowed. "The dangers of your soul are like a battlefield." When Vladimir pulled up to the hotel, the man was asleep, saliva curdling at the side of his mouth, his shirt unbuttoned to his stomach. There was only $80 in his wallet, a creased photo of him with a woman, both of them in tie-die shirts, dancing.