Has there been a better gift to the art form known as cinema than the man named Steve Buscemi? Though he may not be an in-demand leading man, Buscemi has made a career out of playing memorable supporting roles. He's equally adept at playing the smarmy weasel as he is the charming sad sack or the comic relief character. He's worked with a veritable who's who of filmmakers such as Jim Jarmusch, the Coen Brothers, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. His brief appearances are a breath of fresh air even when they're in lousy Michael Bay and Adam Sandler movies. Buscemi has also managed to carve a niche for himself as an independent filmmaker, having written and directed pictures like "Trees Lounge" and "Interview."
In "Delirious", Buscemi re-teams with writer/director Tom DiCillo. The pair first collaborated on the highly entertaining "Living in Oblivion" which was based on DiCillo's tortuous efforts in making his debut film, "Johnny Suede", starring a then-unknown Brad Pitt. DiCillo so enjoyed his experiences working with Buscemi that he wrote "Delirious" specifically for the actor. Buscemi plays Les Galantine, a struggling paparazzi in New York City still looking for the money shot that will put him on the map. In his words, the "shot heard ‘round the world." Les, along with a flock of other photographers, are parked outside a nightclub one early morn waiting for pop singer K'Harma Leeds (Alison Lohman) to exit. There, he bumps into Toby Grace (Michael Pitt), an aspiring actor who is homeless and doesn't have two cents to his name. It is this chance meeting that will forever change the lives of Les, Toby and K'Harma.
Toby follows Les around like a stray dog. Les reluctantly allows Toby to spend the night in his dingy apartment and eventually employs him as an assistant. He only does so when Toby offers to work for free. Les graciously converts a closet in his hallway into a bedroom for Toby. Despite living as a glorified hermit and misanthrope, Les warms up to the wide-eyed Toby and teaches him all about celebrities, ritzy nightclubs and fancy shindigs. Les would never admit, to himself or anyone else, that he actually LIKES Toby. One night, the street kid winds up on the arm of K'Harma and spends the entire night with her, leaving Les behind in a cloud of dust. Their relationship is put to the test when Les ingratiates himself into K'Harma's birthday party and begins snapping pictures. Toby leaves Les for good and as his stock rises as an actor, his former mentor jealously and angrily watches from the sidelines.
DiCillo spent time with one particular paparazzi (who, ironically, was thrown off the set of one of DiCillo's films) to research the script while drawing inspiration from "Midnight Cowboy." I wouldn't consider "Delirious" a hard-hitting expose about the life of the paparazzi. Nor is it anything close to the silly, Mel Gibson-produced, revenge film, "Paparazzi." The film is more about the friendship between the two main characters and how it changes the cynical Les. DiCillo does poke fun at the fame machine and the public's need to make any talentless fool a celebrity. However, that's not exactly anything new. DiCillo tries to tackle too many subjects when he should have focused on the more intimate symbiosis between Les and Toby. We spend a bit too much time with K'Harma and her struggles with music and love. DiCillo tries to spew some venom towards reality television as we watch Toby become an overnight sensation on his own pseudo-reality show. It's at this point that we get a little too far off tangent. There's also a really goofy sequence that sees Toby walk through the streets of NYC in a dream-like trance while blossoms fall from the sky.
Steve Buscemi does fantastic work in the lead role that goes beyond just being the funny, sleazy guy. He manages to bring about the slow turnaround necessary to make such an unlikeable character into a sympathetic fellow. As Toby, Michael Pitt does a decent job playing the naïve innocent, but his was probably the weakest performance of the film. There wasn't anything particularly wrong with his acting, just that nothing really drew me to his character. The film also features Gina Gershon as an appropriately sexy casting agent who shacks up with Toby and Elvis Costello in a bit role as himself.
The video is presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The film has a slightly bleached out look, but doesn't go to the extremes that Tony Scott would. The transfer is clean without any noticeable specks or blemishes.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Nothing senses shattering here. This is a low-budget, dialogue-driven film so your system won't be getting a workout. All the dialogue comes in crystal clear.
The DVD includes a commentary track from Tom DiCillo which is an interesting listen for aspiring filmmakers or those who are just interested in the process of movie making. DiCillo kicks off the track by discussing the genesis of the project and how it took him six years to finally get financing even with Buscemi, Pitt and Costello attached to the film. He also talks about the usual topics that get brought up in commentary tracks; on-set anecdotes, what it was like working with this actor and that actor, etc. DiCillo also laments the film's incredibly brief, almost non-existent theatrical run.
Stalking Delirious (14:50) is a making-of featurette that's much better than the usual EPK fluff that normally finds its way here. The segment finds DiCillo and Buscemi walking the very streets of NYC where the film was shot as they talk about working with each other and making the film.
Promotional Shorts are three skits that ran on the film's website. "Delirious Marketing Meeting" finds DiCillo in an exacerbating confab with the movie's marketing firm. "Steve Buscemi Pissed!" sees DiCillo attempting to remind Buscemi to plug the film while he's doing press work for "Interview." In "Gina Gershon Sex Tape", DiCillo try to get Gina to film a sex tape that will be accidentally leaked out in order to shore up attention for the film.
Finally, we also get the film's theatrical trailer and the full music video for K'Harma Leeds' song, "Shove It", which features a bikini-clad Alison Lohman dancing in a boxing ring. The song was actually written by DiCillo himself and is a fun jab at today's radio friendly pop tunes.
I'm not sure if "Delirious" is a film with much repeat value. The script has a charming quality to it, but is just too scattershot and unfocused to be really strong. Still, Steve Buscemi's presence is what keeps this film afloat. It is his show through and through.