Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chameleon Street

Fact: Some of the greatest art is made on no budget.

Fact: Directors who write and star in their own productions make some of the best films.

Fact: Wendell B. Harris is on a different Wavelength than the rest of the world.

Chameleon Street is a testament to the previous statements. Director, screenwriter, and star Wendell B Harris proves to be a one-man army in this tale about the too cool for school con artist William Douglas Street. This is a film that displays the ingenious of a new director and the quirkiness of the decade that influenced his style.

Although this film is mainly a comedy, there are parts in this film so suspenseful that it is almost painful to watch. Street places himself in situations that the viewer knows is destined for doom. While, there are laughs from end to end, this film is nothing less than a great modern tragedy. I find something haunting about the last frame of the film that solidifies this statement. As the final frame is frozen, Harris breaks the fourth wall with what seems as an expression of insanity and for the first time in the film he is shown as a villain.

In the extra features on the Chameleon Street DVD there was a trailer for Wendell B. Harris’ most recent film, Arbiter Roswell. This was actually a little more than a trailer and more like a preview of select scenes. I must admit, I was turned off by what was presented. The project did not seem cohesive and lacked a point. It seems that his recent work on aliens and conspiracies is a lot like the SETI program. He is sending a lot of signals into space with out any kind of response. However, for a period of time in 1989 when he made Chameleon Street, I picked up his signal.

On a side note: When I was thirteen I received the Blackstarr album from a family friend. One of the tracks on the album was “Brown Skin Lady.” This track sampled a scene from the beginning of Chameleon Street. While watching Chameleon Street it was somewhat surreal to finally watch the original scene that the song had sampled. That scene can be seen here.

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