Phil Longley Was Still There
By sean mcnulty
There were frail nods of recognition when Felix stepped in, but soon after the heads quickly wafted back to the prevailing entertainments of the day. Granted, he’d not expected much from the Pop Thrill crowd, but now the promotional tour for Get Away –his most recent film, that explosive crime thriller that anyone with a modicum of taste was currently touting as groundbreaking– was coming to an end, and he was back in the town of his birth and development, he thought he’d stick his head in the door anyway. He took comfort in the thought that even Stanley Kubrick must have returned to the West Bronx on occasion. True, flying was not an option for Stanley, on account of that dreadful fear that dogged him all his life, but surely the invention of a teleportation device was not beyond the man’s abilities. Fear of another kind sat with Felix now – a fear of rejection that only those who have been privileged to find themselves commanding a large audience would ever know. There had been much applause in his life already, and recently, a great deal more. Ovation of the standing kind and carpets of the red had greeted him with kindness in the past few weeks. But he wouldn’t receive any such praise here in this place. Really---what the hell was he thinking? Being in the public eye now, it was better that he minded where he went from day to day, but...when all is said, there continued to reside hope within him that the sparring partners of his past life would finally give him the respect he so obviously deserved, or even just a nod of approval, a frail one even. But there was no approval present in the nodding of this crowd. Just recognition. He should be happy for that at least, but an artist is never fully satisfied.
Phil Longley was still there, of course, giving it loads at the end of the bar, dodging the darts that shot over his head like it was second nature to him. And at the front on the lounge seats, there was Bucky Savage still, nursing a pint of stout by himself, his guitar resting on the seat beside him, waiting patiently and sorrowfully for some accompaniments to arrive. And Mary Trang, the Vietnamese woman who’d been searching the town’s pubs for a husband the last time Felix had seen her, was on the stools with August Rafferty – she was Mary Rafferty now. They were slamming down vodka-lemonades and nattering away with Patsy, the thirty-eight year old proprietor, who was behind the bar leaning over a newspaper and chuckling with them about something or other. Patsy had bought the establishment some years before and sought to transform it from its earlier incarnation as McFeeley’s into something more dynamic and youthful. But legacy pubs have roots which are frequently unwilling to yield land, which go deep-deep-deep and stretch wide-wide-wide, so the revolution Patsy hoped for never came. It was a place that just never quite got over its own history. The Pop Thrill, as seen today, looked like it only opened for wakes, the ones where the blood was so bad that battles were known to commence with minimal effort, and even the ghosts ran for their lives. Patsy had originally wanted to attract a more creative, musically-disposed punter, so outside, the signage had stars and guitars all over to give the sense that here was a happening rock bar. But inside it was far from that. Bucky Savage’s guitar was limited to performing the orthodox jigs and reels and sentimental tunes that any self-respecting guitar should be rigged and ready to play on call, but that was about it – the few Val Doonican songs it knew were about as rock as it got. That signage outside would change to say McFeeley’s again soon...any day now, yes. It was all the same for Felix though. He hadn’t expected to hear the warlike thumps of a grime track going in.
Imagine it if you would: a universally-known layabout in town one day experiences an epiphanous moment, collects all his gear and flees to the Americas, a place that happily welcomes all his charms and contrivances and allows him to bullshit his way right into the motion picture business? Who ever heard the like of it? And who would have thought he would wind up being noted in the world as a director – an auteur, no less? As far as he was concerned, none of them in The Pop Thrill could even name a single film director, let alone did they know what the hell an auteur was. Except John Ford maybe. It was a sure bet they knew who the big man was as many were still waiting for him to come and put their town on the map as he’d done for the village of Cong with The Quiet Man, of which there were framed photos on the walls, along with other figures from the popular films of yesteryear. The funnies mostly. Chaplin. Laurel and Hardy.
Felix Addison began his adventure fifteen years earlier as a production assistant on a tolerable sitcom and from there he swiftly moved onto:
Boys Boys Boys (20 minute short; Editor)
Have It Your Way (5 minute short; Editor; Director)
The Dropped Bag (Feature; Second Unit Director)
Revenge of the Flannel (Feature; Director; Screenplay)
White Burn (Feature; Screenplay)
Get Away (Feature; Director; Screenplay)
It was just that simple for Felix Addison.
Crime featured heavily in all his work and the new film Get Away was a courageous proposal for genre reinvention. In the film, we are introduced to a getaway driver and stay with him as he plans a heist with a team of bank robbers. Tension grows in the conflicts that arise between each member of the team, an affair between the protagonist and the psychotic head of the syndicate, and in the meticulous crafting of the heist, which in the planning is shown to be a daring and ingenious venture. As we get into the third act, and to the day of the robbery, we follow the driver as he gets into his car that morning. When the car doesn’t start, he yells, SHIT! Then the driver retracts his head, closes his eyes, and falls fast asleep. We then enter his mind and glimpse part of his dream which involves pretty ladies in red skirts dancing suggestively on the road. We then come out of the driver’s dream, but he stays sleeping, and the camera pulls away from his car slowly before cutting to the robbers waiting for him to arrive. Then we cut back to the driver. He is snoring away with a smile on his face. Then we cut back to the robbers who are getting nervous, helplessly looking at their watches. Then we fade to black and THE END.
‘Addison’s refusal to release us from tension is a masterful subversion and we are forced to cancel our traditional passions and motivations and just...go to sleep.’
Felix was so fed up with the formulas of modern cinema. He longed to shake it all up. And this distortion of convention worked because Get Away was now a smash hit, as they say. Audiences had generally become more jaded and sleepy too, as it happens, just like the driver in the film. In the common cinema nowadays, you might count a thousand yawns over the course of ninety minutes.
Felix took a stool at centre bar next to Mary and August Rafferty.
‘What’ll it be?’ Patsy asked.
‘Just a pint. Guinness, yeah.’
‘You’re a gentleman,’ said Patsy chirpily, then he toddled off to get the drink with the motion of a contented man, not one whose aspirations had been defeated. Felix had never met Patsy before, and the barman might have recognised the renowned film director, but he was certainly not the star-struck sort if indeed he did.
‘Hey, you should make a film about us,’ said Mary, turning to Felix suddenly. ‘It would be a great romantic story that breaks down all the walls of culture.’
‘Ah, me hole,’ griped August beside her.
They knew who he was evidently, and this was pleasing to Felix, but he wasn’t equipped right now to converse with them, so when his pint eventually came, he kept his head down, and let Mary and August bicker over which horse to bet on next. He was able to sit quietly for some time scanning the pub mirror, glancing over the displayed bottles, the weekly draw, the foreign banknotes, the wrinkled old photos on the glass with familiar faces on them, until Phil Longley at the other end of the bar all of a sudden noticed him and raised his glass high. Felix smiled and returned the gesture. If there was anyone in the pub today who he wouldn’t mind talking to it was Phil Longley. They’d been friends in the past. Before he’d left for the States, in his twenties, he’d come into McFeeley’s regularly, and he and Phil would drink and play pool on a table that was now in absentia. Although conversations he shared with Phil in those days were not worldly or intellectual, he enjoyed them, nevertheless. In immeasurable ways, Phil had always impressed him. There was something of a movie star look about him, a mid-crash movie star. Mickey Rourke. Charlie Sheen, all scuffed up. The kind that looked the part, dressed the part, but frankly rejected the part.