By Don Simpson | January 16, 2011
Director: Joshua Brown
Writer(s): Joshua Brown, David Bucci
Starring: Daniel Louis Rivas, Frankie Shaw
The legend goes that punk rocker Richard Havoc (Daniel Louis Rivas) was born at Altamont during the infamous 1969 Rolling Stones concert. Twenty-nine years later, at the height of his fame, he vanished. Documentary filmmaker Mark Clark (Raphael Nash Thompson) tracks Havoc to the California desert where he finds him hiding in an underground missile silo, holed up with Karen Kennedy (Frankie Shaw), the emotionally scarred former child star of the sitcom Why’s Daddy Acting Funny?, and hook-handed Travis Hook (Teddy Eck), the host of the pirate television program “Travis TV”.
Mark pitches an idea for a feature film documentary about Havoc, which Havoc immediately re-imagines as a means to gain a wider exposure for his call of revolt to the youth of America (a.k.a. the “United Corporation of Americide”). Yes, Havoc and his cohorts are radicals hoping to begin a revolution of America’s youth. Why? Well…because they want to. (They seem to be rebels without a cause.) They just know that they are against “the man.” Is that not enough? (Havoc and company constantly refer to Mark, a black man, as “the man” — cleverly flipping the concepts of 1960s counter-culture inside-out.)
Havoc and company represent an alternative youth culture that co-opts and reinvents its rebelliousness from history: the beats, the hippies, the yippies, and the punks. They repackage and mass-market slogans without truly understanding the meaning attached to the words. (You might say that Havoc uses the counter-culture movements of the 1960s and 1970s as the Tea Party uses the Founding Fathers of the U.S.) They are also a superficial web of contradictions, professing hatred and disdain for the very same things that they themselves consume. They are sponsored by energy drinks and speak in dated pop culture catchphrases, yet they purport to be wholeheartedly against consumerism and popular culture. Everyone wants to hear Karen repeat her famous sitcom catch phrase (“Why’s daddy acting funny?”), even though Karen is clearly frustrated with the requests. (Imagine Gary Coleman being asked to repeat “What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” over and over again to his friends.)
Adapted from an original stage play by David Bucci, writer-director Joshua Brown’s Altamont Now opts for straight-laced, deadpan delivery of material that juggles stereotypes and clichés, parody and slapstick. The characters are totally unsympathetic, with Havoc being the most unlikable of the lot. Brown makes a few allusions to Altamont Now being a found footage or mockumentary film, but it’s merely an illusion or, better yet, a pretense. Altamont Now is all about pretension and pretending. As a condemnation of reality television, Brown’s film must feel overtly false and contrived in order to not succumb to any cinematic techniques that would covey any sense of realism. (Is it real or is it Memorex? It is definitely Memorex.) That said, Brown does mix in a healthy dose of historical B-roll footage of protests and riots (but this is all part of Havoc’s regurgitation of revolutionary history) and he filmed Altamont Now in a real abandoned military installation.