Notes From Hairenik
July 14, 2009
On the second day of the sixth annual Golden Apricot Film Festival in Yerevan I attended the screening of the film "Looking For Palladin," written and directed by Andrzej Krakowski.

The film stars in its leading role Ben Gazzara, who has played in dozens of Hollywood-produced films during the last 50 years or so. He is perhaps best known for his work in the from-the-heart, passionate films by independent film pioneer John Cassavetes, namely "Husbands," "Opening Night" and the classic double-cross thriller, "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie."

Mr. Gazzara plays a retired movie actor named Jack Palladin who is a two-time Oscar winner that abandoned the glamour and the living-at-the-moment lifestyle to work as a short-order cook at a cafe owned by a fellow expatriate American in Antiqua, Guatemala. An ambitious and cocky hot-shot talent scout named Joshua Ross, played by David Moscow, is sent to Antiqua in search of Palladin to lure him into reviving his film career, albeit briefly. For Joshua the trip serves a dual purpose, as he is also in search of his father, a retired film studio head who has also gone underground, and the second husband of his mother who, as we come to find out, is Jack himself.

During the two-hour timespan we meet several characters who are part of Jack's everyday life, including a taxi driver who operates his business with a horse and buggy, a bicycle happy Catholic priest enamored with Jack's wife (played incidentally by a gracefully matured Talia Shire), a shoemaker protective of Jack's whereabouts, a jovial butcher specializing in liver, and a woman who is dying of a mysterious illness. Several of the characters in the film were actually played by real people who had virtually no acting experience, but you wouldn't have figured that unless you were told.

Mr. Krakowski, who was at the screening and enthusiastically fielded questions at the end of the screening, revealed that the film's subject was very close to him as some scenes were taken directly from his life, particularly candid moments between Jack and Joshua, who insists that Jack reveal the intimate details of his mother's death who died of cancer. He also revealed that the film was actually intended to be shot in a suburb north of New York City, but decided to move the setting to Antiqua while keeping the entire scenario intact.

"Looking For Palladin" is essentially a study of relationships that could have been between sons and fathers, or would-be stepfathers in Jack's case. At one point Joshua tells Jack that "I could have been the best son you ever had." Jack acknowledges that sentiment in a handwritten note he later hands Joshua as he is ready to depart Antiqua.

From what I understand "Looking For Palladin" has yet to secure distribution by a company specializing in marketing art-house films in the US. That fact is quite disconcerting given the solid performance of a veteran, gutsy Hollywood actor, a well-written script containing natural dialog strikingly spoken by the players, and the stunning cinematography in the picturesque town of Antiqua. Nevertheless, in this day and age of absurd, comically void movies, sugar-coated romantic dramas and gimmicky horror films released by Hollywood, that reality can unfortunately be expected.