Sarah Kelly’s “Full Tilt Boogie” amiably chronicles the 10-week shoot in 1995 of “From Dusk to Dawn,” that lurid, amusing and entirely forgettable vampire picture directed by Robert Rodriguez from an early script by his executive producer Quentin Tarantino, who also co-starred in the film with George Clooney.
Unfortunately, whatever interest “Full Tilt Boogie” might have had has pretty much evaporated, coming so long after the release of “From Dusk to Dawn” in January 1996. That’s because movie fans are pretty familiar by now with Tarantino’s bright, manic personality, and with Clooney, then making his feature debut as Tarantino’s partner in crime, who kidnap a minister and his family and wind up in an elaborate south-of-the-border topless biker bar where everybody is a vampire.
What’s more, nothing really all that exciting occurs during the shoot. Yes, there is the threat of a union shutdown, an explosion that turns out to be bigger than planned, requiring the repairing of the nightclub facade set, erected on a dry lake bed in Barstow, where the temperature hits 122 degrees. But these are hardly earth-shaking occurrences, and the documentary may be of greatest interest to film students wanting to get an idea of what it’s like to make a mainstream movie. Not helping matters is that in clocking in at 99 minutes “Full Tilt Boogie” overstays its welcome by 10 or 15 minutes.
What emerges is a portrait of cast and crew who are largely young people. They’re entirely professional, likably candid and collectively possess an admirable sense of humor. These people work hard and party later in a perfectly normal fashion.
By far the most interesting aspect of a jaunty if none-to-gripping experience are the interviews with the film’s stars. Juliette Lewis, who played the daughter of minister Harvey Keitel, comes across as a natural; she says of acting, “You’re lying pure and simple. If you understand acting as lying you can lie a million different ways.”
By contrast Keitel, who did not want to participate in the documentary but finally agreed, providing that Tarantino interviewed him (off camera) rather than Kelly, waxes philosophical, talking about acting’s essential mystery, the excitement of not knowing what may happen moment to moment. Keitel, formidable actor that he is, is seemingly trying to be dead serious, which in the context of “Full Tilt Boogie’s” hip, comedic tone, comes across as pretentious.
Fred Williamson, a veteran of so-called “blaxploitation” pictures, talks with pride of his experiences as an independent filmmaker--you’re not entirely sure Kelly knows who he is, and Michael Parks, cast as a sheriff, epitomizes class and cool, mentioning his high regard for Jean Renoir and describing acting as “a way of finding out about other people.” As for the now-famously wary Clooney, he avoids direct exchanges with Kelly, and as the documentary progresses, clearly regards Kelly as an intruder--though he also wants to come across as a good guy who gets along with everybody.
There’s considerable good-natured humor along the way, and while “Full Tilt Boogie” is pleasantly diverting, it’s about as negligible as “From Dusk to Dawn” was itself.
* MPAA rating: R, for language, violence and some nudity. Times guidelines: The language is of the routine four-letter-word variety; the violence, which is minimal, occurs in some of the scenes being staged; and the nudity involves topless dancer extras.
‘Full Tilt Boogie’
A Miramax Films presentation. Director Sarah Kelly. Producer Rana Joy Glickman. Cinematographer Chris Gallo. Editor Lauren Zuckerman. Music Dominic Kelly, Cary Berger. Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes.
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