7 YEAR ZIG ZAG
(director/writer/producer: Richard Green; screenwriter: Richard Green; cinematographers: Dermott Downs/Cynthia Pushek/Alexander Szuch; editor: Michael Vargo; music: Dinan & Green; cast: Richard Green (Storyteller/Nick), Robin Banks (Dreamgirl), Caroline Davis (Lily), Leslie Macker (Kitchen girl/Hedy), Victoria Davis (Boston Widow), Joe Torcello (Boston Millionaire); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Donna Dubain; Next Step Studios; 2001)
“The entire documentary is accomplished in rhythm, rhyme and tune.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
What makes Richard Green’s tale about his Hollywood showbiz obsession unique is that the entire documentary is accomplished in rhythm, rhyme and tune. If not for that the film would resemble many other Hollywood bio/autobiography plot lines, with its tale of suffering for the sake of one’s art. The 51-year-old Richard Green acts as narrator and sounds like a retro Lenny Bruce/Jack Kerouac character when outlining his dream to make a movie to get the money he needs to open up a swing club.
Richard revisits his 1960s hippie experiences, which include a free love joust with a blonde from Iowa and a true love fling with a college gal from Vermont. He calls her his Dream Girl (Robin Banks), and they drop out to do the Haight-Asbury “flower power” scene and soon end up doing the Hollywood scene. But she retreats to medical school to follow her dream to be a doctor after he fails to commit to a permanent union. The end of their relationship plays heavy on the aspiring musician, who goes on to hone his craft and get in step with his big dream to be a musical trendsetter. Richard’s attempts at cracking the door open in the entertainment world are put on hold as he plays the corporate game to help his dad, even though not feeling it. But he eventually lives only to play his ’80s nightclub swing music in the ’30s style. The major part of the story is set in the early 1980s when Richard tries to bring swing music back to the States with his Zig Zag band, as he plays in Hollywood’s Roxy. I loved that band’s name, as it reminded me of my hippie days. Zig-Zag was the cigarette rolling paper of choice to smoke my pot, and just hearing that band’s name gave me a contact high.
Richard tells his story with a sense of urgency, almost swooning over his love for swing music and ambition to make movies and live happily ever after with his Dream Girl. I found myself swaying back and forth during the poetical narration, distrustful that it was all a little too cute for my taste but that giving way to the joyous mood set by the music. The jazzy beat, snazzy dance numbers, high energy levels of all the recreated musical action shots and zippy tunes made this oddball flick a lot of fun.
Richard as the storyteller is driven to make a film about “The Doomsayer,” a man who believes the world will end in 7 days. This movie gets started with donated costumes and New York’s Public Theater provides the space, but due to lack of funds it never gets made. Instead while driving from New York to LA, Richard comes up with the bright idea of his Zig Zag swing band. The heart of the film is about him chasing his career dream and looking again for a replacement for his “Dream Girl.”
Part of the documentary has a “film within a film” story that is in black and white and has captivating hand drawn cartoons by artist Tony Peluce, as through “living storyboards” a loving couple named Nick (Richard Green) and Lily try to make a go of an underachieving nightspot and turn it into the dreamy ZigZag Club–“the world’s first floating nightclub.” This fictionalized tale overlaps with the supposedly true autobiography, and by the conclusion it is difficult to tell fact from fiction.
The film is not without some flaws, the main one is a confusing path to the storyline. Nevertheless, when Richard asks of his trip–“Was it worth it?” that can be answered with a resounding “yes!” That same “yes” response could also be taken as a recommendation for this experimental movie. It resounds with all the promises expected from the revolutionary days of the 1960s and how in the ensuing years the landscape of America changed and sometimes all that’s left is to hold onto the dreams once cherished. Richard believes that’s what counts as success. In some respects, some of the viewers might vicariously live that hippie dream through Richard. Though I must say, his wise guy “hipster” hippie trip was nothing like mine. Yet I can still dig where he’s coming from, if you get my drift (I wanted to say that in print ever since the new century began).
REVIEWED ON 9/19/2003 GRADE: B