Whatever promise Roman Coppola might have displayed as a director a few years back with CQ goes egregiously unfulfilled, if not utterly betrayed, with A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III (at Sundance Cinemas downtown), a tediously in-jokey and interminably self-indulgent disaster that brings out the worst in everyone involved.
To be sure, it’s not like Coppola — son of Francis, brother of Sofia — raised astronomical expectations with CQ, a modestly clever 2002 dramedy about a self-absorbed, super-serious American film editor who’s tossed into the mad, mod ‘60s world of cheesy-breezy European co-productions. But at least that film had a sense of playfulness about it, along with strong eye for defining period detail.
In sharp contrast, Charles Swan is a strained and painfully unamusing bore, with Charlie Sheen typecast in the lead role of an undisciplined jerk and chronic womanizer whose surreal fantasies are meant to be funny and fascinating. Throughout this catastrophe, Coppola repeatedly strikes dim echoes of 1970s stream-of-conscious comedy-dramas — especially All That Jazz and Who is Harry Kellerman and Why is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? — that obviously inspired him.
By doing so, however, he only manages to underscore how inferior his film is to those he has ransacked.
Charles Swan is a strained and unamusing bore, with Charlie Sheen typecast in the lead role of an undisciplined jerk.
Sheen plays Charles Swan III, a celebrated graphic designer who has a personal and professional meltdown after his stunningly beautiful (and conspicuously younger) live-in girlfriend leaves him. Her decision to split — which, based on everything we see, seems an entirely reasonable response to unconscionably caddish behavior — encourages the self-pitying Swan to indulge in various fantasies, most of which place him, his snarky best buddy (Jason Schwartzman) and his anxious business manager (Bill Murray) in conflict with gorgeous but emasculating women.
There is one truly funny moment, when Murray fleetingly riffs on John Wayne while he and his cowboy-clad buddies are attacked by beautiful babes dressed (barely) in Native American attire. But the moment passes, and the movie slogs onward.
The running gag of Sheen’s playing a character not unlike his off-screen self (or at least the persona we’ve come to know through tabloid press accounts) gets stale after, oh, I dunno, the first five or six minutes. Sporadically, Sheen appears to be incorporating into his performance certain characteristics of other notorious naughty boys — including producer Robert Evans (note the tinted glasses) and Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.
But, really, those are the things you start to notice only when you’re casting your gaze about the screen to find something, anything, that will sustain your waning interest.
Ironically, Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III is opening in H-Town the same weekend that Roman Coppola will learn whether he’ll receive a much-deserved Oscar for co-writing (with director Wes Anderson) Moonrise Kingdom. Don’t be surprised if, this time next year, he’ll be a Razzie nominee for this flick.
This weekend, there are no fewer than five — count ‘em, five! — Bollywood imports on view at AMC Studio 30. The lineup of new and continuing features includes:
ABCD (Anybody Can Dance): Director-choreographer Remo D’Souza’s spirited comedy-drama about ambitious competitors on a top-rated dance show is said to be India’s “first 3D dance film.” Sounds right to me.
Kai Po Che: Abhishek Kapoor’s fact-based drama about three friends divided by political and religious conflicts deals with unusually serious (by Bollywood standards) subject matter: The 2002 riots in Gujarat State in which Hindu mobs killed nearly 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.
Murder 3: You will not be at all surprised to learn that this is a sequel to a movie titled Murder 2. It’s a mystery involving a successful wildlife and fashion photographer whose new girlfriend starts to wonder whatever happened to the guy’s former lover.
Zila Ghaziabad: Another Bollywood drama (with songs) based on real-life criminal activities, this one focusing on a violent gang war in 1990s Ghaziabad.
OTHER SCREENS, OTHER CINEMA
Moving from Bollywood to Nollywood, we have Doctor Bello (also at the AMC Studio 30), a Nigerian-produced drama with some familiar American faces (including Isaiah Washington and Vivica A. Fox), about a New York-based cancer specialist who tries to save a patient with the help of an uncertified Nigerian doctor living in Brooklyn.
At 14 Pews, Tatsumi, Eric Khoo’s imaginative biopic about Japanese comics artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi, returns Saturday and Sunday after its H-Town premiere at the 2012 Houston Cinema Arts Festival.
And the Mountainfilm on Tour Festival — a series of documentary films dedicated to raising ecological and cultural awareness — continues at the Asia Society Texas Center.
Two leading Oscar nominees in the Best Documentary category — Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching for Sugarman (at 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday) and Kirby Dick’s The Invisible War (at 7 p.m. March 1, 4 p.m. March 3) — have been booked for return engagements at 14 Pews. But wait, there’s more: Free Saint Arnold’s Beer will served at the Searching for Sugarman screenings.