Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"So... what exactly is this TOO MUCH BEAUTIFUL WOMAN stuff about?"

I actually have a bunch of other stuff I wanted to yak about today, but I realize that it is just wrong for me to make another entry in this blog without definitively addressing that question that so many people have asked me.

Thing is, I am terrible at talking about my own work. Always have been. I could do some armchair self-analysis to identify the reasons why, but that's neither here nor there. All I know is that when you ask me, say, "What is TOO MUCH BEAUTIFUL WOMAN about?" I start gesticulating like a character from a silent movie and mumbling sentence fragments like:

“...kinda like an African take on the noir genre. But instead of a hardboiled detective, the hero is a drunken tailor...”

“…an affectionate tribute to 50 years of Nigerian pop culture and cool-looking hats...”

"...a cross between James Hadley Chase and Amos Tutuola..."

"...a romantic fable of African modernism and haberdashy, bursting with bawdy humor, funk and fashion..."

(Yes, sadly I do employ that kind of pretentious criticspeak even in everyday conversation. Such is my affliction.)

The one description I have actively avoided, though, is "a Nigerian City of God." It seems like "a _______ City of God" has become the catch-all descriptor for any "modern" "Third World" "urban" tale, even when the similarities to that most excellent Brazilian film are purely cosmetic (cough cough).

But the issue remains that City of God is such an incredible cinematic achievement that any attempts to compare oneself to it are tantamount to setting oneself up for failure... Because you will fall short of the mark. Besides, the idea of a "Nigerian City of God" is kinda cursed to me... After all, that's what this guy said he was going to make, and... er, let's just say he ended up falling way short of the mark.

In any case, the script that I wrote did have some similarities to City of God* in terms of its jittery energy, breakneck pace and byzantine structure (though we had to cut back on some of the byzantinism for budgetary reasons). That's what it is on the page, anyway... It remains to be seen how much of that we can actually translate to the screen within the restrictions of budget and schedule.

*Did I just make it sound like I was influenced by City of God in writing it? For the record, I wrote the first draft of this screenplay long before City of God was even released but I guess the reason that film struck such a chord with me is because it's the sort of movie that I wanted to make.

Well... For better or worse, I am gonna try to deliver some sort of description of the story. At first I had the idea to write it in the form of a trailer, reproducing snippets of scenes and dialogue and all that, but I thought that it might be a bit confusing. Plus, a trailer ain't a trailer without the distinctive voice of the "Coming Attractions" guy (You know the voice I'm talking about: "IN A WORLD WHERE JUSTICE WEARS NO UNDERWEAR...") and maybe a Sheryl Crow or Kelly Clarkson song to really ram home those emotional points at the end.

So instead I'll write it in the terse style of the synopses on the backs of the cheap, dimestore novels that inspired it. (Feel free to read it with the "Coming Attractions" voice if you want to, though):

Boy thinks he’s a tough guy. Ever since he was a kid working in an Aba sweatshop, he’s imagined himself as a character in the crime novels he read during breaks at the Aba sweatshop where he worked. His favorite writer by far was Professor Portmanteau, a.k.a. "The King of Tailors" - the legendary detective, guitarist and couturier who authored a series of hardboiled pamphlets chronicling his own adventures in the mysterious city called Lagos... a dark city of romance and adventure, high couture and low lives. Most of all, he wrote about the Too Much Beautiful Woman, a dangerous, alluring femme fatale who metes out fortune or despair upon the men who cross her path.

Determined to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Boy travels to Lagos in search of fame and fortune and adventure and romance... Fast forward a few years: Boy's life isn't full of much adventure or romance, just the daily humiliations that come with staying alive in the mean city. He's just another world-weary loser dwelling in the belly of the beast, drowning his unfulfilled dreams in a river of palm wine and selling his soul piece by piece to keep afloat.

Meanwhile, the city is being held under siege by Henry Ni-Ni, a murderous bandit who kills nine people at every stop he makes. When Boy's path crosses with Henry Ni-Ni's, he finds his fantasy world of adventure and romance merging with reality in a more gruesome form than he could ever imagine, and he has to step up and make choices will make Boy a man.

*cue "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield*

Or maybe just make him dead.


Obviously that ain't even close to capturing everything that happens, but it's a teaser, innit? Does it pique your interest, gentle readers? If it doesn't, I'm in trouble, aren't I!

Okay, now we got that out of the way we can talk about other stuff...


Akili said...

You need to give Henry Ni-Ni some type of really creepy name like Henry "no dick" Ni-Ni but say it in portuguese. Brazilians have this way of giving folks nick names based on their physical defaults. So a person named John missing a tooth would be João Sem Dente. Or for example a dude who had discolored lips from smoking too much weed would be Fumaça. Henry Ni-Ni becomes Henry Sem Pau Ni-Ni

FYI: Sem Pau is pronounded SAIN POW

AFKAP of Darkness said...

Sem Pau, huh? that's great! i think i'm gonna use that somewhere else... i got a comic story set in Brazil that i'm working on and i think i'll throw it in there!

but since you're here and we're talking about Portuguese nicknames and i previously mentioned City of God, what's the story behind Mane Galinha? i never really understood why he had that nickname (not that there HAS to be a logical reason, of course) though it ties in quite nicely in the beginning/end when Ze Pequeno says "catch that chicken! tonight, we eat chicken... and carrot for desert!"

Akili said...

Mané is equivalent to the word Dude or it could be a reference to the common name for people from the city of Florianópolis in souther Brazil. Galinha means a loose woman so put the 2 together you likely get the dude who gets all the woman and since Mané wa fine cause his character was played by Seu Jorge, meu deus do céu que negão mais lindo. . .oops, sorry, so you get my point.

I am elated about your using the sem pau thing. Fumaça is actually a character from an excellent 70s Brazilian film called Peixote, you should see it, its not a true story but its based on a lot of shit that did and does go down as far as children in the criminal justice system are concerned.

AFKAP of Darkness said...

hahaha i should have known better than to mention Seu Jorge around you.

(hmmm... i wonder if i should mention that i might be interviewing him soon if his people can arrange it before i leave for Nigeria?)

thanks for clearing up the Mane Galinha thing, though. that's something that actually bugged me for a while!

oh yeah, i've seen Peixote... great movie! i actually was thinking of seeing it again not too long ago...

Akili said...

*looking up roundtrip tics to Boston*


ain't nothing better than a black man

Seven said...

I started reading this entry when u put it up, but got distracted and kept meaning to get abck to it....
Sounds good man.....