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The Reeler Blog

Ball Bearing

Alan Ball after a satisfying lunch of fresh souls (Photo: Getty Images)

By S.T. VanAirsdale

In advance of the film's forthcoming US premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, the Post's Lou Lumenick has a chat today with Towelhead writer-director Alan Ball. You can probably still smell the smoke from my Toronto coverage, back when the coming-of-age-by-way- of-sexual-and-emotional-and-racial- abuse "dark comedy" was called Nothing Is Private and Warner Independent rewarded Ball's lower-intestinal labor of love with a whopping $1.25 million. Or at least Ball still detects it:

“It's interesting that so many people seemed to be shocked by it," Ball said before the film's US debut at the Sundance Film Festival, which opens tomorrow in Park City, Utah. “I don't feel it's shocking at all ... Statistics show that something like one in four young girls have some sort of inappropriate sexual encounter with an older man."

The "statistics" are even more dire among young girls in Alan Ball screenplays, but I digress. My whole point last September was that the film is anything but shocking; "Todd Solondz remaking Crash in a cul-de-sac" was the specific characterization. Towelhead is an unimaginative approximation of shocking -- a diluted hybrid of message movie and transgressive indie that has not only been done before (let alone done better), but also achieves new lows in cynical condescension. Lumenick later lets Ball get away with playing the "female empowerment" card evidently borrowed from Eli Roth, the A-bomb of myopic chauvinist hacks around the world whose loathing of women defers only to their loathing of themselves.

But wait, there's more: In an extra on his blog, Lumenick drops another Ball money quote:

Ball told me he doesn't read reviews. "At some point in the past few years, I just stopped. I find I do better work that way.'' But he did hear about Stu VanAirsdale of The Reeler, who was so incensed when he saw Towelhead' at last fall's Toronto Film Festival that he threatened in print to bludgeon Ball with a print of his film if he ever showed up in New York. "He sounds like the kind of guy who's a lot more talk than action,'' Ball said.

First off, I didn't just threaten to bludgeon Ball. I threatened to "bludgeon the motherfucker to death." Context, please! Second, Ball is indeed on to something about me not really wanting to kill him; I have too much respect for his cinematic work on behalf of abused and exploited women to compromise its accruing momentum. (Certainly, if anyone's actions speak louder than his words, they are Mr. Ball's.) Finally, if Towelhead, or Nothing Is Private, or See You in the Hague or whatever it's called is in fact the product of Ball avoiding his critics, then I would love to see what kind of work he might do if the entire media establishment swore off covering him or this film or, for that matter, all of his future output. Think of the possibilities! World peace, equal rights or, at the very least, no more of his soul-corroding sophistry in the pages of the New York Post. Put your money -- and my ass -- where your mouth is, kind sir.

Posted at January 16, 2008 12:16 PM

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