Between silents and talkies (art and exploitation? body and soul?), "the valley of indecency." The key is Richard Dreyfuss’ resemblance to Josef von Sternberg as a ruined auteur scrambling for genital close-ups circa 1930, the rest of this Hollywood-Babylon apparition falls in place as brackish facsimiles of Jeanne Eagels, Louis B. Meyer et al. The proscenium is a colonial California mansion barely held together with chewing gum; padding through it in floral jammies is the faded Boy Wonder (Dreyfuss), who between swigs of cognac sarcastically addresses his stag-movie cast as "pioneers of the neo-classical arts." The star is a hophead flapper (Veronica Cartwright), the stud is a pomaded gay gigolo (Stephen Davies), the producer is a wannabe hamburger impresario (Bob Hoskins). The genius-turned-pornographer’s own bodily and creative juices have long dried up, the search for the elusive authorial erection leads to the moneyman’s mistress (Jessica Harper), a demure dame in no time purring for defilement. "The trick is to limp to the edge and let yourself fall." Cinema is alternately equated to bootlegging, grave-digging and meat-wrapping and unwrapping, yet Fassbinder’s holy whore in John Byrum’s sardonic exposition of the artist’s dilemma is also a vivacious gal in a cyclone of splayed crotches and wisecracks. Much material is registered from Sunset Blvd., Baby Doll, Singin’ in the Rain and Sweet Bird of Youth, though Byrum finds a comic tenor of his own, with bold strokes (the raunchy-sweet switcheroo of the muse’s seduction, the validation of the "fancy crap" of camera expressiveness, the overdosed corpse of the Jazz Age carried out in a sheet) brought off via long takes and on-fire performances. Russell in Valentino and De Palma in The Black Dahlia remember some of the best gags, reviewers got stuck on the X-rating and, like the trenchcoaters in the opening scene, fumbled in the dark wondering "where the fuck’s the cum shot?" Cinematography by Denys Coop.
--- Fernando F. Croce