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Reel World 

Wednesday, Aug 26 1998
One Night Stand
Wesley Snipes' bodyguard is smaller than your humble correspondent, but he's a pillar of Zen calm, even as his employer sits for an interview 15 feet away. Maybe it's his martial arts training; could be his 20 years in the L.A. Sheriff's Department. His eyes never stop scanning Club Townsend, nearly empty at 8 p.m. on a Monday night except for a harmless smattering of press and some gothy models eating prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and blini with sour cream and chutney. He's never had an incident in his five years on the job, he says, mainly because his focus is on prevention. "You can say anything you want to him, but I draw the line at touching," he says.

Snipes and co-star Stephen Dorff lined up a seven-city club tour to promote their techno-laced vampire-horror-action film Blade. "We do junkets for movies all the time -- we repeat ourselves, we lie," Snipes explains. "We thought, 'Let's do something different.' " Like his bodyguard, Snipes isn't big, but tonight he's sporting biceps, impenetrable shades, and his vampire-hunting character's bulletproof vest. He cuts me off with a laugh when I comment on his look. "I'm not going to the grocery store or doing my laundry in my Blade outfit." Anyway, "I'm a lot funnier and lighter than he is." But Snipes, a martial arts aficionado, was dead serious about Blade's fight scenes, from choreography to editing. Any interest in directing? "You've got to commit yourself to something for a year-and-a-half," he demurs. "That's a horror movie in itself."

Stephen Dorff's personal publicist is a pit bull, negating the need for a bodyguard. Dorff's role as the decadent villain in Blade is as showy as his doomed Stu Sutcliffe in the Beatles saga Backbeat ("I can't really walk on the street in London, because of that part") and the fragile Candy Darling in I Shot Andy Warhol. "I like young directors," the 25-year-old actor volunteers, firing up another Camel Light. "That's better than a guy who knows how to shoot a movie but has no idea how to get a character out of you." What did he learn making Blade? "How to talk with vampire teeth." The music gets louder, the doors open to the public, and suddenly his face is frozen in the flash of a fan's Instamatic.

At the opposite end of the food chain, S.F. State hosted Visible Evidence VI Aug. 15 & 16. The annual rotating documentary conference drew 125 international film scholars and academics, and featured presentations by local filmmakers Craig Baldwin and Jay Rosenblatt. Reel World dropped in for an enlightening Sunday morning session titled "Music and the Nonfiction Film: Strategies and Practices of Musical Mediation." The panelists compared Virgil Thomson's sweeping, portentous score for The River (Pare Lorentz's influential 1937 social history of the Mississippi basin) with Philip Glass' ominous soundtrack for Koyaanisqatsi and the use of authentic folk songs in Barbara Kopple's Harlan County, U.S.A. A wide-ranging discussion followed, one that included a brief semantics skirmish over the use of the word "manipulation," although nobody questioned the fundamental notion that "music channels our emotional response" (in Hollywood films as well as documentaries). From manipulation it was a short hop to Leni Riefenstahl and Alain Resnais (Night and Fog), and the dialogue continued through the lunch break. This crowd dined on basic box lunches rather than custom-made hors d'oeuvres; in cinema today, documentarians get the crumbs.

By Michael Fox

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Michael Fox


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