March 28th, 2008

solace

movies: CHAMELEON STREET

Here's a movie recommendation for you: CHAMELEON STREET.

Never heard of it? Neither have most people. It won Best Dramatic Film at Sundance in 1990, and then largely vanished, along with writer/director/star Wendell B. Harris. Next to no release, next to no video availability, but it's on DVD, and if you've got Netflix you should put it in your queue. Because it's a hell of a flick.

CHAMELEON STREET is a biopic of the pretender William Douglas Street, a social chameleon who put himself into situations that he was woefully unqualified for, but turned out to be fairly good at. In the film, which conflates some stories from Street's life with some from another man sharing his unusual talent, Street successfully masquerades as a journalist, surgeon, attorney, and -- in one of the funniest scenes -- an exchange student from Francophone Africa, which he carries off despite *not knowing French.* Street is aided and abetted in his pretenses by societal convention, and so only fails in his masquerades because of outside forces, even happenstance, simply tripping him up, or, when it is his fault, because his laziness results in his failure to prepare on a basic level. (See: not knowing French.) The irony, of course, is that the society Street aspires to is basically lazy in a similar way, and that's just what leads so many people to believe him in the first place.

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