Living in Oblivion [1995]

You won't find a smarter, more amusing, or more accurate send-up of low-budget filmmaking than Tom DiCillo's 1995 independent feature, Living in Oblivion, wherein a motley cast of would-be artistes blunders its way through a day on the set. Steve Buscemi plays goateed Nick Reve, a harried, sweating director whose crew of numbskulls and egotists seems hell-bent on ruining his film. The trials and tribulations of independent filmmaking are not foreign material for writer-director DiCillo, who cut his teeth as Jim Jarmusch's cinematographer on 1985's Stranger Than Paradise before going on to direct his own work, such as the offbeat 1992 comedy Johnny Suede. Like that film, Living in Oblivion rides a precariously thin line between the real and the surreal, featuring a midget actor and an exploding smoke-effects machine, as well as a ridiculously narcissistic Brad Pittesque character played by James Le Gros. While films like Get Shorty, Fran├žois Truffaut's Day for Night, and Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt suggest that moviemaking is hip and glamorous, Living in Oblivion will have none of that. The film within the film feels like a director's primer on what not to do, and this modest-budget gem both lovingly and caustically strips the "cool" veneer from the filmmaking process. They should show this one to kids thinking of entering film school. It might make them think better of it. --Nick Poppy

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