“Nothing Lasts Forever,” yet this Bill Murray movie persists.

“Nothing Lasts Forever,” yet this Bill Murray movie persists. (photo)

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“This is a historic moment for me because in this very theater years ago, I saw ‘Ben Hur’ and was scared to death when they went into the leper thing in the cave,” said Tom Schiller at a rare screening of his lone feature “Nothing Lasts Forever” at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. “So this is my revenge by showing my feature film that has been suppressed for 27 years.”

Teased recently in Karina Longworth’s L.A. Weekly piece as “the Bill Murray film you’ve never seen,” Schiller’s 1984 quasi-comedy about “a guy who wants to be an artist, but he doesn’t know what kind” has been getting a revival of late, first rediscovered in 2004 when Murray insisted the rare film be included in a retrospective of his work at the BAMcinématek in New York, and subsequently serving as the Opening Night Film at last year’s Olympia Film Festival and a recent play at the 92YTribeca “Not Coming to a Theater Near You” series in March in addition to Michael Streeter’s book “Nothing Lost Forever.” The Olympia Film Fest date is particularly ironic, given that it was a bad test screening in the Pacific Northwest that doomed “Nothing Lasts Forever” to a release directly to the airwaves of late night television in Europe when MGM, still reeling from “Heaven’s Gate” and other debacles of the early ’80s, decided against releasing the film theatrically.

As the American Cinematheque moderator Grant Moninger noted during the film’s post-screening Q&A, Schiller’s film resembles the work of Guy Maddin, heavily using stock footage to imagine a New York run like a police state by the Port Authority with an underground sanctum where ticker tape falls from the sky representing the souls living above. (The worlds are differentiated by black-and-white for the Big Apple and color for the rest.) A pre-“Gremlins” Zach Galligan is caught between the two worlds when after being revealed as a fraudulent pianist in Europe, he is called upon by the New York underground to travel to the moon for some “spiritual work” and to find his soulmate (Lauren Tom). Although “Nothing Lasts Forever” isn’t traditional in any sense, Murray plays what would be described as the film’s villain, the testy lunar bus attendant whose job it is to serve Lunartinis and encourage the largely senior citizen passengers to shop freely at the “Moon-O-Rama Carousel of Consumer Values” on a moon that resembles Hawaii far more than the one Neil Armstrong landed on. (Fellow “SNL”-er Dan Aykroyd pops up in a cameo and Schiller revealed John Belushi had been originally tapped to play one of the underground dweller gods before he died in 1982.)

When asked at the Egyptian screening how the film got made, Schiller responded, “I don’t exactly know” before explaining how Lorne Michaels had a development deal at MGM and out of several projects Michaels considered, he picked the one from Schiller, who had been directing idiosyncratic shorts like “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and “Java Junkie” for the NBC show during the late ’70s and early ’80s. “I think they thought it was low budget or something to get off the hook of their contract, but I had total freedom. No one was watching hardly and I got to make a personal film with a studio crew.” As it turned out, two members of that studio crew would later become Oscar winners — Howard Shore, who composed just his second score for the film, and “Alice in Wonderland” costume designer Colleen Atwood, who is credited as a production designer on “Nothing.”

Clearly, MGM didn’t know what to do with “Nothing Lasts Forever,” which derives its self-reflective humor from a bewildered Eddie Fisher (as himself) asking, “How the hell did I wind up singing on a bus to the moon?” and one of Galligan’s art groupie sexual conquests squealing “Oh my God… it’s ‘Potempkin!'” upon climaxing as she sees the Eisenstein film in the background. According to Schiller, the film was accepted not once, but twice into the Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight after Schiller smuggled a print of the film to the powers that be, but MGM passed.

“I got a phone call and they said, [in a French accent] “you have created a masterpiece! You will be a sensation at Cannes!” So I met [the Cannes director] at the Algonquin Hotel, where he gets me champagne and my head is swimming because all I wanted to do was be a great foreign-appreciated American filmmaker,” Schiller recalled half-jokingly. “So I immediately call the president of MGM and say, ‘They want us at Cannes.’ And he said, “Baby, you could get killed at Cannes.” I said, give me the name of a film that was killed at Cannes. He said, “Baby, I could give the names of 50 that were killed on your desk by tomorrow.’ I never got the names of 50 and I never got to Cannes.”

Though Schiller insisted he likes the film’s cult status, he also alluded to the “murmurs” of an eventual DVD release, possibly through the Warner Archives label, and when asked if he’ll ever make another film, said, “I’m reading stuff. Yeah, maybe. Why not?”

[Photo: “Nothing Lasts Forever,” MGM, 1984]

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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