Richard Beymer: Two Short Films, July 00 | India: Shivaratri 2001


A still from India—Shivaratri 2001, a short film by Richard Beymer.

FOR ONE EVENING ONLy, Saturday, July 7, 2001, the Iowa Conservatory Theatre in Fairfield, Iowa, presented two films by Richard Beymer.

The first film, India—Shivaratri 2001, features unforgettable images of holy men in Varanasi during this year’s Shivaratri celebrations. The sights of India, candid shots of the remarkable festivities, of faces, the sounds, life along the Ganges, the whole rich tapestry of the event come alive before your eyes. You are privy to rare glimpses of everyday life elevated by slow motion sequences and a rich soundtrack. Almost a meditative piece but alive in richness of spirit.

The second is called How to Make Perfect Hollywood Movies. Richard has been filming his life and times and friends for decades. His script is culled from hours and hours of brief episodes, intimate encounters, and revealing interactions. It is “reality”’ filming that plays tag with itself, one minute playful, one minute poignant, so intimate in nature that it somehow becomes universal. Essentially autobiographical, the film is a synthesis of an artist’s unflinching search for what is real and truthful and meaningful in life. Advertised as “not for the erotically squeamish,” this is challenging and transformational stuff. There is an intoxicating sense of release and freedom from pre-conceived notions watching this movie unfold.

From Peru to Paris to Fairfield to Hollywood, backwards and forwards in time, you’re ringside for a straightforward, intensely personal self-exploration, nothing short of a spiritual odyssey. These are real people sharing insights, fears, and unposed intimate moments with Richard, whose camera keeps rolling sometimes lovingly, sometimes less so, but always revealingly. When a girlfriend gives him crap, it actually is his girlfriend; when he re-enacts a sexual liaison from childhood with his cousin, it actually is his cousin; when you see Richard spreading his mother’s ashes in a river, it actually is his mother’s ashes. When you see his blue hands and face and body, this is not some movie role; it’s from eating herbs with a shaman in South America.

A Zen master’s sublime touch when it comes to the editing process, there are fragrances of 60s surrealism, dreamlike Freudian undertones, and odd, funny moments that border on in-joke black humor intertwined throughout. The experimental, improvisational flow is underscored and heightened by self-composed electronic music. I have never been so moved by a film. I don’t care what the title is; this is no ordinary Hollywood movie.