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Lost Forever?

Another New York screening of a classic New York film raises the chances of a DVD release.

Bill Murray as the bus conductor.

“Nothing Lasts Forever,” an extremely rare early 1980s cult film by writer/director Tom Schiller, screened at the 92Y Tribeca on March 20, is a sweet film that is very different in tone than one might have guessed from its pedigree.

Schiller directed some classic shorts featuring the first SNL cast that ran as part of the show, namely “Don’t Look Back In Anger” featuring John Belushi and “La Dolce Gilda” featuring Gilda Radner.

Schiller’s first and only feature, “Forever,” had Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray in small parts, but its real focus is the character of Adam Beckett, played by 18-year-old Zach Galligan, who has wide-eyed aspirations to be an artist. He follows his dreams through Schiller’s own wide-eyed view of a New York long gone, or that perhaps never really existed, into a fantastic underworld and on to a fantastic journey to the moon.

In keeping with the retro fantasy of the film, the special effects are deliberately cheesy – especially the one-dimensional cut-outs of a school bus/spacecraft as it travels to the moon. Schiller also nods to “The Wizard of Oz” with most of the film being in black & white except for certain fantasy sequences shot in color.

“Nothing Lasts Forever” has a lot of little touches that don’t call attention to themselves, but accumulate to create its tone, such as the thick New York accents heard from Aykroyd and Rosemary De Angelis as the immigration clerk, and the announcer who intones instructions on behalf of the Port Authority, which has taken over control of the city following a general strike. Also, the party scene that Galligan stumbles onto when arriving at his aunt and uncle’s apartment feels like a uniquely urbane New York gathering.

In addition, although it’s a very small part of the film, Schiller also hit on a goldmine by casting Calvert DeForest out of a cattle call of extras, before DeForest became better known as Larry “Bud” Melman on David Letterman’s show. DeForest was supposed to just be an extra on the space voyage, but his few lines marveling at aspects of the journey injected absurdity and fun into those scenes.

As a writer and director, Schiller, present at the screening, is at his best with homage to the New York of yore, as was also evident in “Java Junkie,” one of a few shorts also screened at the 92Y Tribeca, which featured Peter Aykroyd bouncing from one old-time coffee shop to another in search of a fix, all in black-and-white with a dissonant jazz soundtrack.

“Nothing Lasts Forever” is so much of a rarity that it is still in DVD limbo, at least officially. However, “Nothing Lost Forever,” a book about the film and Schiller’s work, is available.

   

     

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