Opening with the opening of a pig-tailed artist (male) of questionable talent but lots of attitude, “Hellaware,” director Michael Bilandic’s new film, is an often laugh-out-loud sendup of the New York art world, its strivers, wannabes, money and pretensions.
Nate (Keith Paulson), 25, going nowhere since art school and bitter about it, checks out a video about the mega-auction results of art star Solomon Winterborn (yes, think Damien Hirst), and clicks on a link. And discovers a wouldbe shockrap band of teenagers in Delaware, Young Torture Killaz (heavily indebted to Insane Clown Posse).
Consulting Dr. Cherney (painter Duncan Hannah), with whom he took “photography and the ethnographic image,” Nate is encouraged to photograph the band. His ex-professor also promises to make an introduction to the prestigious LaFleur Nagumi Gallery if Nate’s results are good.
Nate convinces his friend Bernadette (Sophia Takal, somehow lovely wearing oversized old-man semi-rimless glasses) to drive him to Delaware to see a show the band announced on the internet. The directions end at a dirt road in dark woods but rather than finding a intimidating scene, the friends meet the Killaz in the band leader’s parents’ basement.
Rusty (Brent Butler)–beautiful boy, with blood red lipstick smeared on and around his mouth, Joker-style–and the others, equally made-up and wildly coiffed, welcome the attention and are drawn in by Nate’s boasts that he knows record labels and promoters in New York. They allow Nate (who uses a point and shoot) to photograph them performing in the basement and partying around a firepit deeper in the woods.
Gallerist Olivier LaFleur (photographer and writer Gilles Descamps, hilarious) is impressed with Nate’s images and expresses interest in seeing more. Nate plans additional trips to Delaware and tells Bernadette that he needs to “immerse myself in their culture.” She criticizes his condescension.
After an evening of shooting intense partying (and vomiting), Nate providing the band’s drug of choice, “purple drink” (narcotic cough medicine), stolen from his grandmother, he’s ecstatic, convinced he has the makings of an exhibit. But Rusty, cautions him about showing anyone pictures with them using drugs, “I’m on parole.”
LaFleur, told of Rusty’s serious misgivings, dismisses them, “Don’t worry about that. History is always on the side of art.” and schedules Nate’s show as the inaugural exhibit at his new Bushwick space. An unintentional collaboration between Nate and the Killaz on the night of the opening makes Nate a sensation. LaFleur asks, “How does it feel to be an enfant terrible?”
I’ve had innumberable songs bouncing around in my head but perhaps none as inappropriate if I were to suddenly burst into song as Young Torture Killaz’s irresistibly funny, “I’ll Cut Yo Dick Off.” Youtube video here. Also appealing, the line Nate uses chatting up an impressed young blonde woman, “The key to photography is to take photos.” Yes, indeed.
“Hellaware” will open Friday, September 26 in New York at Cinema Village and will be available on demand.