It was also the year I saw The First of Many, a short film that expertly tells the story of the truth behind the process of breaking in to the business in 1971 through the recounting of an audition. As the audition progresses, the director convinces our star to remove her clothes, and then assaults her. The story seems to honest, and that may be because of the experience behind it. Pamela Guest, who co-directed with her daughter (and the film's star) Elizabeth Guest, was raped by composer and director Joseph Brooks in the 70s in a scenario that mirrors the films. You've seen Pamela Guest in films over the years. She's one of those "Oh yeah, her..." actors. She's been one of the leading forces in addressing the sexual assault problem in Hollywood for years, and here she makes an impressive statement not only of the problem, but of the aftermath.
The entire way the scene plays out feels slimy, partly because Lawrence Levine (Gabi on the Roof in July, which is where I think I first saw him, and almost certainly met him at Cinequest in 2010) is so good at making it look like he's there just to do a job, and that the progression of inappropriateness is just another part of that job. It's a great performance, and one that I hope everyone sees, because he's not shown as what we want to think rapists are. He's a quiet monster using the fact that he's a talented and driven director as the lure.
Elizabeth Guest, a member of the famed Guest family that includes Christopher Guest (more accurately Christopher Hayden-Guest, 5th Baron Haden-Guest) and her own father, Nicolas Guest, who I loved in USA High back in the day, is absolutely great in playing her way through an audition that is both utterly banal and ultimately damaging. She shuffles her emotions with confusion, and deals those cards with precision. The second or third time I watched it, I found myself tracking tracking her shifts between emotional states, and it's remarkable that an actor can make those transitions without losing the audience, and even more impressive that she can make them without losing the script's impact.
This is an important and really well-done film. The three cards at the end of the film which tell Pamela Guest's story are heart-breaking, but also do not overpower what we saw. They are the vessel that the film was cooked in, informed by. It only makes the entire film more important.
And it is an important film, not only because it directly confronts what we now acknowledge as a problem, but because it reminds us that we were lying to ourselves for far too long.
You can see The First of Many as a part of Shorts Program 3 - The Reality of Illusion shouwing WED 2/28 at 2:15PM at 3Below in beautiful Downtown San Jose, THU 3/1 at 6:00PM in Redwood City, on FRI 3/2 at 5:15PM in Redwood City, and SUN 3/4 at 8:45PM at 3Below.