“The strangest things happen in Hollywood in the middle of the night”
Shot on location in 2007—dated by the film billboards and posters littering the scenery—and screened at a couple film festivals in the years since, Steven Peros’ Footprints finally makes its way into select theatres. Known for writing the screenplay to Peter Bogdanovich’s The Cat’s Meow, his latest cements the obvious notion that the writer/director loves Hollywood lore. Rather than tell a real life story again, Peros has instead crafted an introspective yarn touching upon the whole of cinematic history and its famous downtown Los Angeles district by channeling everything through the journey of a young amnesiac.
Our nameless gal (Sybil Temtchine) awakens atop the signatures of celebrity greats lining the pavement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Possibly dreaming, the audible musings of a homeless man’s (Jeris Poindexter) conspiracy theory concerning footprint placement racism on the grounds confuses her. Wondering if he knows whether he’s merely a character in her fantasy or not, the quest for her own clarity leaves her cautious and mute. Disregarding an inner monologue begging to ignore passersby in case of danger, she surprisingly takes the helpful hand from Mike (Charley Rossman) and follows him to a local coffee shop. There she meets E-Man (John Brickner) and Victor (H.M. Wynant), two men who come and go as she continuing in search of answers.
Slow and methodical in its pacing, the 80-minute film is rife with philosophical musings about the town’s ability to devour young souls forever. With filmic tidbits spanning a brief history of both Gene Tierney and Rita Hayworth’s sadness to the sold out premiere of Douglas Fairbanks‘ Robin Hood at Grauman’s Egyptian, Footprints becomes a love letter to a city easily dismissed as a land of sorrow and broken dreams. For every success story there are probably thousands more full of horror. As such, our gal’s lack of memory makes it hard to figure out whether she has been a victim, a victor, or just another willing player in a dangerous game that will soon decide her fate.
The possibility of dream never diminishes despite her appearing awake and engaged in her surroundings; the people she meets generally cryptic, carefully disappearing and reappearing as though planned. E-Man and Mike throw around film trivia, Victor is an elegant gentleman looking to pass his wealth of knowledge onto a woman set adrift, a faux Cat Woman (Catherine Bruhier) and Super Girl (Riley Weston) give their two cents while soliciting a Wonder Woman cohort, and a strange man (Kirk Bovill) haunts with a scowl and possibly malicious intent. Temtchine’s lost girl wades through them all in fear as the not-so-hidden clues to the answers she seeks are discovered with very helpful camera pans.
More a tome speaking to the magic, mystery, and prevalent depression of Hollywood than a story with any literal plot to follow, Peros places his lead inside a world far removed from that of the identity he hides beneath her blank expression. At times Temtchine is exuberant and radiant, but her situation mostly relegates her to puppy dog eyes. The chasm between the two demeanors is so far that I must believe the overt theatricality of her performance is intentional—the broad emotions adding enough to the fantasy aspect of the story for me to forgive it.
Actors and actresses hold unsavory jobs or become overlooked after success—the city swallowing them whole as they forget themselves to conform to the cutthroat, fast-living circus. Whereas most reach this point by adding to their personas, our gal strips away everything in hopes she won’t make the same mistakes twice. A metaphor for optimistic lost souls arriving in Hollywood, she hopes to be the exception to the rule by finding redemption after failing to achieve her place within the machine. But if we relegate greats like Sidney Poitier into footrests for drinking fountains, who will ever care about the likes of a B-movie star from a film unscreened since 1957? Being remembered is a fantasy few achieve; being forgotten is universal.
My favorite character Genevieve (Pippa Scott) tells a wonderfully potent joke about ‘ethnic’ newscasters and how conformity makes individuality appear the lie. We should embrace who we are—a life of fortune from a fake persona will always pale in comparison to the briefest glimpse of fame as our true selves. Whether age adds years to our features or years add distance to our celebrity, a new, younger facsimile is there to replace us. Temtchine’s role embodies this feeling of unwanted banality. She is everyone’s success and failure wrapped into the body of a dreamer caught between fantasy and nightmare: a pretty face to become Lynda Carter or Mira Sorvino, a sad face to pity, a naïve face to recruit into a cult, and a kind face to earn the friendly gesture of a stranger
Soundbytes about seeing past and future people or how not getting into a sold out show is like not existing fall with much heavier thuds than I believe were intended. There’s subtlety in the amnesiac’s introduction, but as the story moves towards its surreal payoff, in-your-face clues removing our ability for individual interpretation replaces nuance. We discover a mystery half a century old through this unsuspecting wanderer as select memories prove there’s more power in the footprints that remain than ones stolen and lost forever. She searches for her ‘Fountain Boy’ and yearns for something that had always been out of reach. It may take some of us fifty years to find what others do in a day, so we can’t lose faith. This message tries so hard to come through Footprints—unfortunately it sometimes gets lost along the way.
courtesy of footprintsthefilm.com