Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hollywood Indie: Footprints

There is a reason religious cults recruit in Hollywood. There are plenty of lost souls to be found roaming the sidewalks. One mysterious woman is definitely one of them and yes, she is offered a free “stress test” by a you-know-what. Wisely, she will seek answers somewhere else in Steven Peros’ Footprints (trailer here), a gently fantastical valentine to Hollywood that opens this Friday in New York.

A woman wakes up on the concrete hand and footprints behind Grauman’s Chinese Theater. She has no idea who she is or how she got there. Half-suspecting she is trapped in a dream, she passively falls into the flow of life on Hollywood Boulevard anyway, at least until she can think of something better to do. All the jitney tour guides take her under their wings, but Victor makes an unusual impression on her. A dashing old cat, he was surely quite the ladies man in his day. She feels safe around him, but to her alarm, the old gent apparently vanishes midway through the day.

Obviously, there is something supernatural afoot, but Peros keeps the tone more wistful than ominous. He uses the Hollywood setting quite shrewdly, giving viewers a feel for the neighborhood around the landmark theater. He also gets a big assist from the jauntily swinging score by Christopher Caliendo, which often evokes the spirit of the classic West Coast Cool Jazz, particularly when adding flute and vibraphone to the instrumentation.

The problem with Footprints is its fable-like story requires considerable selling to be effective, but with two notable exceptions, the cast simply is not up to it. However, H.M. Wynant (whose many credits include The Howling Man, the coolest Twilight Zone episode ever) brings genuine big-screen charisma and presence to the film as Victor. Likewise, Pippa Scott (another TV veteran also known for small but pivotal supporting turns in The Searchers and Auntie Mame) exudes charm and warmth as Genevieve, a former B-movie queen whose lost jungle girl programmer is set for a revival run at the Egyptian.

Footprints expresses its affection for old school Hollywood in ways that are really quite endearing. Peros also fine tunes the film’s evolving emotional vibe rather deftly. Unfortunately, his efforts are often undermined by the folks on screen, which is a darned shame. At least it all sounds great when Footprints opens this Friday (4/15) in New York at the Quad Cinema.