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Ron English interviews Ari Roussimoff
ABOUT: The Howdy Neighbor Show was a Public Access Show, Owned, Produced and Directed by Sri Daryl Grant. "Welcome to the Real World" RARE FOOTAGE Interviewed by Sri Daryl Grant in the early 90s a nonprofit documentary which examines 12 artists living in New York City. The artists explain and display their own work as a sociological story board, depicting the city and what inspires them.
PLOT: Taking an avant-garde approach, experimental Russian painter turned director Ari Roussimoff creates an offbeat addition to the horror genre. Troubled, doomed Paul returns to his home in an oppressive and stylized Manhattan (filmed in black and white) after spending time with a traveling carnival. As he wanders the gloomy streets in search of love and acceptance, he muses about the correlation between the grim fates of his family and his own destiny. Both his brother and his mother killed themselves, and now Paul sees the Spirit of Death beckoning him to do the same. He does not realize that Death is really only offering him more of the same.—Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide
CAST: Bruce Byron - Frankie; Valerie Caris - Prostitute; Joe Coleman - Professor Mephisto; Lou Cypher - Gatekeeper; Emile de Antonio - Mystic; Taylor Mead - Father; Clayton Patterson - Hustler; Kembrah Pfahler - Assassin; Rhonda Scherich - Mother; Craig Smith - Paul Mills; Brinke Stevens - Fortune Teller; Roy Sundance - Mack the Knife; Jack Smith - Spirit of Death; Nick Zedd - Demagogue; Annie Sprinkle - Ex-Girlfriend.
ROUSSIMOFF ON THE MAKING OF SHADOWS IN THE CITY: As all the arts are really related, and being a lifelong lover of the cinema, the progression to making movies came natural. Filmmaking became another one of my mediums, not unlike oils or sculpture. It was another way to express my feelings. Having done performance art to compliment my paintings, film directing suited my natural unabashed sense of theatricality.
"Shadows In The City" was my first feature length motion picture. It was shot piecemeal over a number of years on a low budget as funding and schedules would allow. We lensed it in black & white, which is a really sensuous and painterly technique when used in an inspired manner. I really loved giving my first film that textured look. I do not see directors today using black & white successfully. Unlike the magical cinematic quality seen in most of the older movies, the majority of contemporary films employing black & white seem to miss the boat, artistically speaking. Most of "Shadows In The City" was filmed in 16mm with some sequences in 35mm.
This was a very dark, surreal and somewhat morbid-themed work that I would never have done today. This was over 10 years ago and I have since learned a lot. The movie dealt with moral decay. Suicide, Bikers and Ghosts in a hellish world. As I stated, this was my first movie and is something I would never ever broach doing again today. However, it was an extremely educational experience, and we had lots of fun making it. This movie is a very visual experience. Doing scenes featuring over 400 bikers was quite fabulous. For lovers of motorcycle culture, they will see many a fine custom motorcycle here. Plus, we filmed from right in the very innermost heart of the American biker subculture and I will hold up those particular sequences against anything that mainstream ever produced using bike scenes.
It was also a great honour to have assembled such a spectacular cast of avante garde celebrities. We had legendary filmmaker, director, performance artist Jack Smith (Flaming Creatures). This was Jack Smith's last performance before passing away from Aids. He was a major artist and I was lucky that he agreed to perform. And he was just superb in the role!. There was also the noted documentary filmmaker Emile de Antonio (Millhouse), comedian Taylor Mead, Scream Queen Brinke Stevens, poet Bruce Byron and a host of others. A number of the old Andy Warhol Factory performers also participated. Originally, we had famed Hollywood Horror Film King Joe Spinell slated to star. We even toured Coney Island together scouting for locations.
As the film took years to complete, Joe had passed on, so we replaced him with an actor named Craig Smith. There are certain misconceptions about "Shadows In The City". For one thing, it is often characterized in listings as an "American Underground" film, when in reality, although filmed entirely in New York City using mainly American cast and crew, the film belonged to Switzerland.
Much of the financing was Swiss and came via my background as a painter. When we completed a number of the early scenes, we created a quick rough cut which was presented to the great director Federico Fellini. Further funding was forthcoming after Fellini enthusiastically praised our footage. The movie, which some perceive as being rather intimidating, was praised by a good many critics and also managed to outrage others. It played in very limited engagements in the United States (in New York at the Angelika and at the old Bleeker Street Theater among others), but toured throughout Western Europe, picking up a certain following in Germany.
A souvenir booklet of the film tour came out in English, German and Dutch language versions. It is a very rare item today. Unless I am mistaken, a copy of this periodical can be located in the library of New York's Museum of Modern Art.