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By all accounts a wild character himself, Rice died in Mexico at age 29, after completing a handful of underground movies with Mead and Jack Smith. For consummate subcult critic Parker Tyler, Rice's "dharma-bum films" work by discarding the distinctions between art and life. They "bear resemblance to the lunatic romps of the Marx Brothers, only now the actors are not in comic uniforms, as if the parody were part of real life, not a movie fiction." Today, Mead's Flower Thief uniform—tight hoodie, button-down shirt, three-stripe tennis shoes, and beat-up jeans—can be seen on many an L-train habitué, en route to neo-Bowery facsimilies of post-war cafés, and so the parody has been reversed; such are our own meticulous restorations of the fantasies of other people's youth. ED HALTER


HOLLYWOOD BUDDHA
Written and directed by Philippe Caland
Northern Arts, opens March 18, Village East

The state of decay: Nusuppaev
photo: Picture This! Entertainment
The state of decay: Nusuppaev

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Schizo
Directed by Guka Omarova
Picture This!, opens March 18, Angelika

Of the four movies Philippe Caland has previously produced, just one found a distributor—the legendarily terrible Boxing Helena, which bankrupted Kim Basinger when she was sued for $8 million after wisely backing out of the project. In Hollywood Buddha, Caland, playing himself, attempts to rescue his uncompleted hillside dream house from imminent foreclosure through a Hail Mary effort to sell Dead Girl, his unreleased 1996 Val Kilmer vehicle. The necrophilic premise is simple: "Dead girl getting fucked."

Hollywood Buddha is no satire of Tinseltown mores, although occasionally that seems to be its intent. Larry David travels the same karmicly treacherous geography on Curb Your Enthusiasm, using a similarly postmodern, DV-vérité format. But whereas David's persona mocks his own quixotic pettiness, writer-director Caland plays himself as a provocateur Job smote by uncaring studios. The movie, as an exercise in narcissism, is breathtaking. Caland, who otherwise dresses in that peculiarly California style of athletic gear and hippie chintz, takes pitch meetings bare-chested and oiled. Oh, and the film is also about enlightenment. BENJAMIN STRONG


MILK AND HONEY
Written and directed by Joe Maggio
Wellspring, opens March 18, Quad

Those unmoved by The Life Aquatic's insouciant take on midlife meltdown may find Milk and Honey a more agreeable exploration of the subject—insofar as it appeals to anyone who's not straight, white, male, and over 45, anyway. This no-budget DV romp through downtown and way-uptown Manhattan (with a creepy foray into the Jersey hinterlands) follows Rick Johnson (Clint Jordan), an insufferably self-absorbed stockbroker stretched to his emotional limits, through a night of soul-searching precipitated by the suspicion that his wife (Kirstin Russell) is fooling around. The setup is no more novel than the film's Soho milieu or the stale Fischerspooner ditty on the soundtrack, and Milk and Honey piles on improbable coincidences; the plot weaves together a decades-old photo, a well-used love nest, a crybaby performance artist, and a beefy crime-scene tech (Dudley Findlay Jr.) with problems of his own. But director Joe Maggio is a deft storyteller with a keen sense of restraint, and even the rather thin performances he coaxes from Jordan and Russell bolster the atmosphere of gentle absurdism. In the end, Milk and Honey's contrived connections blossom into a disarmingly effective reckoning with loss and regret. MARK HOLCOMB

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