Foreign Matter—the movie

Toby travels with a woman who pays. He's got it made, except that her nine-year-old daughter is smarter than he is.  Set in Greece and based on the novel:


“A very, very funny book"—The West Coast Review of Books 
“Enormously enjoyable”—Kirkus Reviews 
“Fresh and spirited”—Publishers Weekly

Think of:

Toby Tucker gets along as a tour guide, though all he knows how to do is keep the clients amused. 

In Venice he falls for rich bubble-head Marcie but can't afford her style.  "To-bee!  Let's just live on my money!"  Well—it’s awkward but what can one say?  He reclines into the good life.

Victoria Pratt
Marcie Harding, sweet, fresh, blonder than blonde and all heart, is a lonely widow who takes a tour in Venice.    Toby abandons the tour to take her to Rome, and when he runs out of cash is about to abandon her.  He loves her more than he knows.
But for Andrea, things would be perfect.  "The child."  Toby and Marcie are no smarter than anybody else; the child is smarter than anybody else.  She'd have got rid of him long ago but her mommy loves him, so she keeps him around to, how shall I say, play with.  When you’re not looking she rotates her head like Linda Blair.

Proposed cast: Dave Thomas

Marcie’s father-in-law, billionaire Hazelton Turnbull “Hard Turd” Harding IV, loathes Toby, and loathes giving Marcie her allowance to feed him.  But he loves his little granddaughter, and there lies the control.
When Haze spends Marcie’s money on a painting for the Harding Memorial Museum it looks like Toby's meal ticket is gone.

Proposed cast: Catherine Tate
Johna Nerg is the butch-nightmare artist whose painting Toby accidentally steps in, sits in and sets on fire.  He really doesn't mean it but she thinks, as who does not, that he's trying to destroy it—and gets real mean with him.
He has no choice, finally, but to try to steal it.  But until the child takes a hand, nothing works.

Foreign Matter is part of the Toby series: 
Pretentious Pictures presents a summer comedy. 

CHOCOLATE AND CHAMPAGNE, a comedy in the spirit of Lubitsch

Reg’d © Library of Congress
A Beverly Hills woman wakes up middle-aged and finds her life with a younger man undignified.

The stage version was performed in New York at the Creative Place Theatre.  Think of...

...only this is her movie, and she gets the younger guy.

Diana, a woman of a certain age, deals with a birthday by throwing out her younger live-in Jim.

They're right for each other, and she regrets it immediately, but she can't take him back: her daughter Jackie, who idolizes and competes with her, tells her Jim has seduced her, and Diana believes it.

So she makes do with the respectable but empty new life she'd thought she needed—with older lawyer Griff.

Jim gives a driving lesson to frantic neurotic Betsy, who almost shoots them off a cliff.  He calms her down and she takes him home. But he can't forget Diana.

Proposed cast: Barbara Hershey (Diana)

DIANA, the Hamlet at the heart of this comedy, is a clothes designer with a boutique on Rodeo Drive, a house in Beverly Hills, and a younger lover, Jim, her kept man for two years now. There’s nothing she can’t handle—except getting older.

Proposed cast: Gael García Bernal (Jim)

JIM is happy with a champagne-and-sports-car life, but he’s also a talented script-writer who’s postponing seriousness into a future that never comes.  Together they’re fast company.  They must have been brilliant at her birthday party last night.

This morning, though, even while he’s making love to her, she’s spooked.  She tells him he has to go.  She wants something more presentable, more—respectable—before it’s too late.

Which shocks him.  He takes life as it comes, but this is a bit violent.

Proposed cast: Kathy Bates (Betsy) 
BETSY, the suicidal widow of a husband she drove to suicide, is too scattered to pass a driving test, takes a lesson with Jim, spins the    car onto a Mulholland Drive cliff and is ready to gun it and take him with her.

Proposed cast: John Goodman (Griff)
Diana's lawyer GRIFF, more her age and on her success level, has been in love with her for years.  Now’s his chance.  When Jackie tells Diana the lie that Jim has seduced her Diana gives up on Jim and tries to make a go of it with Griff.

Proposed cast: Adelaide Clemens (Jackie)
JACKIE, Diana’s daughter, idolizes her and so misses no chance to pick at and defy her.  Inwardly shaky, she is outwardly impish and sexy.  She thinks she’s in love with Jim; in fact what she needs is a father.

Proposed cast: Jack Roth (Dylan) 

Betsy's son DYLAN—eccentric hair, psychotic eyes, twitches constantly and rhythmically as if keeping time to music he doesn’t much enjoy—is in the same class at UCLA with Jackie, over whom he moans uncontrollably.  He disgusts her.

Proposed cast: Rosie Perez (Maria)
MARIA, Diana's housekeeper, is the deadpan foil to Diana's Hamlet, secret ally to Jim, and the one person Diana doesn't dare defy.

Proposed cast: Stockard Channing (Gwen)
GWEN is Diana's mischievous best friend and alter-ego.  She'll take Jim if Diana doesn't want him!  Just kidding.  In an attempt to bring them back together she throws a party and invites both of them, but it turns into a confrontation....

And the final character is Beverly Hills—
—the tone, the climate, the village size and ambiance that make it inevitable for these people to collide. 

The stage version of Chocolate and Champagne was produced by Love Creek  at the Creative Place Theatre in New York.

Pretentious Pictures presents a comedy with a dark center.

Reg’d © Library of Congress

Nifty quotes from Mortal Coil

What is life, anyway, but a lingering feeling of guilt? Might as well enjoy it! 

Don’t worry about photographs of yourself. You don’t look like that.

He thinks she farts fairy dust, and so does she.

“I thought you were going to change!” “Well, I’m still me.” I sighed inwardly. Still me.

She made a little swoon as if I already had her in the bowling grip and Mae-West-walked away.

The head tells you it’s all random, the heart tells you it’s not and the generator is too busy to think about it.

We are caught between the ding and the dong of the dialectic, ambivalence the very law of life, for it is inherent in this system, in this particular system, that there is no system, inconsistency is a principle of the system, each new formula a liberation from the last, everybody’s got something to sell, and it’s nice, oh, it’s so nice when we find something we can stay with for a while—Nabokov, Letterman, Crest—but we move on, we move on, upping the ante with each success, with each defeat, it doesn’t matter, put in on this number, stabilize here, but on we go, grabbing at an illumination that can only come when we have exhausted everything, though we never do, we know we never will, it’s all there to keep us moving, keep us interested, distract us perhaps, from the crushing conviction that God in his Infinite Boredom broke himself into a trillion us just to have somebody to talk to!

But this too is a contortion, life is a series of contortions, pushing us into every possible position, having us every way it can think of, and even when we lie there, sated and sore, we are still sealed in, still have no clue what’s next, our ignorance so seamless as to suggest a law in ambush, another law, the corollary to The Law, inscribed in stone over the exit sign: YOU DON’T KNOW SQUAT!

What did I do, she wanted to know.
I told her I was an artist.
Oh, how interesting, what kind?
Conceptual stuff.
What was it, painting? Sculpture?
It wasn’t much of anything, I told her. I was a minimalist who had arrived at the supreme elegance of statement. I just didn’t do it!
She ambushed me on my way back from the toilet and held me against the wall by the love handles. I was too stunned to protest!

That other incarnation that is living in the south

“Of course money can’t buy happiness,” she reminded me.
“Not unless you know where to shop.”

She touched her chin to her shoulder in a way that suggested I might as well throw my chops on her right now. Just walk right up and achieve bliss. It would, her look said, be a bun-clenching experience.

A stooped elderly man came over and spoke to me. “Are you Delmore Danruther?”
“Sort of,” I said.
“I’m Walter Dadd. This is my crematorium.”
“Oh,” I said. “Gee. I’m sorry.”
Fire trucks were pulling in.

Nadine could put you back together if you swallowed depth charge.

Short-listed for the London Observer's PG Wodehouse Comic Novel Prize; stage version at Samuel French.

"A first-rate contemporary farce, one of the hardest - if not THE hardest genre to pull off. I look forward to seeing the movie."—J. Maas, Amazon

Also by Robert MacLean, the "Toby" books,
Will You Please Fuck Off? at Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon FRAmazon DEAmazon ITAmazon ES and Smashwords;
Foreign Matter at Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon FRAmazon DEAmazon ITAmazon ES and Smashwords; 
Total Moisture at Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon FRAmazon DEAmazon ITAmazon ES and Smashwords; 
and these, too,
Mortal Coil: A Comedy of Corpses at Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon FRAmazon DE, Amazon IT and Amazon ES;
The President's Palm Reader: A Washington Comedy at Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon FRAmazon DEAmazon IT and Amazon ES; and
Greek Island Murder at Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon FRAmazon DEAmazon IT and Amazon ES.

Agustina Bessa-Luís—

—is the Portuguese poet and novelist who has scripted some of De Oliveira's films: "If we lost our illusions about women, the world would end."

Not Taking Taking Yourself Seriously Seriously

A screamingly funny comedy, in which a little girl steers her mother to the right husband by mastering the black arts:
Kiki (a part for a short adult who does sarcasm) is only nine but she’s much much smarter than her mother Liz.
Liz is lovely, likeable and luxurious—but she’s also spoiled and strong-willed, and approves of everything she does.
One thing she does is love Burf, her rich and vaguely criminal husband—who is not Kiki’s father.  In fact he’s in possession of her dead father’s money.   Burf’s brutality excites Liz, but to Kiki he’s an abrasive belligerent bully.
It’s her teacher Kiki wants for a father—Larry Yorgensen, a tender and wistful idealist.
But he is not the kind of man Liz could even like, nor could Larry have any time for a vapid worldling like Liz, and when Kiki arranges for them to meet they insult each other disastrously.
So Kiki summons up a Devil—ugly and evil but no match for Kiki—and has him prepare a love potion in exchange for sacrificing a cat.
When Kiki arranges the simultaneous drinking of the potion, Liz and Larry do fall in love—but they continue not to like each other one bit.
This is double-bad, because as a chairman of the board Burf is Larry’s boss.  And Larry’s fiancée Pepper has their boring little lives all planned out!
But preparing to electrocute the cat, Kiki inadvertently kills Burf instead.
Liz and Larry decide to murder each other; then try to commit suicide together; then, overcome by love, accidentally hang themselves and swing around till Pepper rescues them.
Larry lets Pepper down easy, the Devil accepts Burf’s corpse as payment  and Liz and Larry marry.
When Kiki finds their non-stop in-loveness a little dull she re-invokes the Devil and does new experiments.
The play had a staged reading in at FirstStage in Hollywood with set pieces, lights, sound and music, directed by Josh Costello of The Magic Theatre in San Francisco:

Hi Bob—

We had our first rehearsal last night and it was a blast.  The cast is great, and they love the play.  We laughed a lot.  I think the audience will do the same.

Another thing that struck me in hearing it out loud is just how right Kiki is about Liz and Larry from the beginning.  I think she's really doing each of them a favor by breaking them out of their personas and getting them to expand their horizons.  She may be evil, but she's also very sweet somehow.

Anyway, I'll keep you posted.  Our next rehearsal is Saturday, and we'll finish the staging and run it through.



Hi Bob—
Well, the reading happened tonight and it was a tremendous success. I was so proud of all of it—your script, the actors, and my own work. The audience laughed a whole lot, and stayed afterwards to tell us how much they enjoyed themselves.  Congratulations!

I wish you could have been there, Bob.  Everyone had a great time.  Sadie, my fiancée, was completely impressed.

Dennis has a copy for you of the video of the reading and of the discussion after.  The response was overwhelmingly positive, with people saying they were caught up in the play and wouldn't change a thing.

The audience was genuinely delighted.  Congratulations again—I hope this script goes far and I've got to tell you that I hope that I get the chance to direct a full production of it someday.  This was my first directing gig in Los Angeles, and it was a total blast.  Thanks so much for everything.



(Dennis Safren is the manager and dramaturge at FirstStage, whose Board includes Ed Asner, Julie Harris, Syd Field, Paul Newman and Lily Tomlin.)
Pretentious Pictures presents a screamingly funny comedy.


(A chapter in YOU HAVE UPSET THE BALANCE OF THE UNIVERSE BY BEING BORN: Advice on How to Live by Dr Robert MacLean, PhD: Watch this space for the next one.)

It's not that you deny the horrors of life, it's that you want a world without them, and the act of faith that is charm gives it instantaneous birth—an innocent rather than a naive world. And innocence was born to be insulted.
Your charm, if you only knew it, is your seriousness, but you experience seriousness as danger. When it takes hold it replicates, draws other seriousnesses to it until it collapses under its own weight and makes a fool of you.
It is your defense against being a fool that you identify yourself as frivolous. Nothing can take you in. You work yourself into an ecstasy of confession but your positions are larks.
You affect, for example, a character (see SELF-IMAGE, YOUR). Character is always a comic device—people don't have characters—and your arch parody of your own holds at bay a screaming claustrophobia.
Do you want more? You might not be able to perform your service if you had more, not that it's available. Even this threatens to become a style.
(See also MANNERS.)



One of the perks of being a filmmaker is that creatures like Kanksha Mehta send you their résumés:

Also by Robert MacLean:
Mortal Coil: A Comedy of Corpses at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon FR, Amazon DE, AmazonIT, AmazonES;
The President's Palm Reader: A Washington Comedy at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon FR, Amazon DE, AmazonIT, AmazonES;
and the Toby books: 
Foreign Matter at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon FR, Amazon DE, AmazonIT, AmazonES and Smashwords; 
Total Moisture at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon FR, Amazon DE, AmazonIT, AmazonES and Smashwords; 
The Cad at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon FR, Amazon DE, AmazonIT, AmazonES and Smashwords; and
Will You Please Fuck Off? at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon FR, Amazon DE, AmazonIT, AmazonES and Smashwords.
And they're at Sony, Nook, Kobo, Diesel, iTunes—the whole street.


A Comedy

The modern Casanova longs to settle down with one woman, but she resists him.

He’s coming to the University of Leeds to give a poetry reading and speak to a few classes…

…and the girls are sort of interested!

The great lover's great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson—
(You didn’t know he was secretly married?  It happened in England—a nun who had already taken her vows, the Mother Superior outraged, powerful people to please…)
—has the same name, the same weakness for women (and they for him, or at least for his reputation), sports the same drag and is a so-so poet on the campus circuit.
How can he get steady work as a teacher when trouble dogs him everywhere!  No one takes him seriously except as a—Except as a—
So when he arrives in Leeds he announces that he’s impotent.
Ah, but he’s played here before, and now his past rises up to confront him.

Proposed cast: Simon Pegg (Casanova)
GIACOMO CASANOVA (“Just make it Jack”) takes advantage of his ancestor’s reputation to spice up his act as a performing poet with eighteenth-century costume, and it works on the ladies.  But what he needs is a steady job, and a life.

Proposed cast: Anna Friel (Henrietta)
He doesn’t remember her but some years earlier he had played Leeds and it had worked on HENRIETTA PASTORLY, now a lecturer here with a young son who speaks a private language—one that only Casanova can speak with him. Could it be…

Proposed cast: Donald Sutherland (the ghost)
The GHOST of the original Casanova haunts his great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandson, criticizes his choices and kibitzes the action. No one else can see him and sometimes Casanova almost thinks he’s real.

Proposed cast: Emma Thompson (Deborah)
Chairwoman DEBORAH BLAKE, the no-nonsense head of the Leeds English Department, can’t help but be intrigued by Casanova’s reputation.  Or is it excited?  Or is it, as her husband suspects, in love?

Proposed cast: Dianna Rigg (Cissy)
LADY CISSY SNABE, a benefactress of the University, falls from a dangerous height into Casanova’s gallant arms, much to everyone’s relief. She’s beyond suspicion in such matters, but who is that mysterious visitor at her bedroom window?

Proposed cast: Alan Rickman (Rafe)
DEAN RAFE HARWICK’s wife and underage daughter are both in erotic trances over the arrival on campus of Casanova–and so, it turns out, is the Dean!

And the seventh character is the University of Leeds.  Hell for some; heaven for others—like Jack, who could live happily ever after here as a simple lecturer.

Pretentious Pictures presents an elegant comedy.