Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?

Nothing Lasts Forever was made in 1984 but never released theatrically.  It's directed and written by Tom Schiller and stars Zach Galligan of Gremlins fame.  A low-budget, absurdist sci-fi comedy, it never had a chance of making money.  But at least it finally aired on American television on TCM last week. Schiller shot many short pieces for Saturday Night Live in its early days--odd, whimsical stuff, often in black and white, that was filled more with nostalgia for an earlier American style of film than with comedy.  Nothing Lasts Forever is of a piece with this material.

(Spoilers ahead if you ever expect to see this film.) In Nothing Lasts Forever, Galligan plays a young man who wants to be an artist, so he travels to New York City, which has been taken over by the Port Authority.  Failing his city test for artistic ability, he's assigned a spot directing traffic at the Holland Tunnel.  However, his good cheer and kindness to street people gets him invited to a secret underground (where the film turns from black and white to color) where he discovers his mission is to the moon and meet his soulmate there.  He gets on a bus filled with old people that's nominally going to Miami but is actually part of a secret government program to send consumers to shop on the moon.  Does he meet this special woman and save the day?  I think so, if I followed the plot properly.  As a reward, he ends the film playing piano at Carnegie Hall, as he's always dreamed.

The film is produced by Schiller's old SNL boss Lorne Michaels, and features guest shots from Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray, as well as names such as Mort Sahl, Imogene Coca and Eddie Fisher (playing himself--he's the entertainment on the bus trip). It's impossible to take the story seriously, but if you can stand the whimsy, it's not horrible--at least the plot (which I've now given away) keeps you guessing.  Schiller's style probably works best in short pieces, but it's an interesting experiment, even if it doesn't quite come off.


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