The first re-appearance of Charlie Sheen after his winning vacation from sanity… A trippy experimental piece by the son of one of the greatest and most ambitious film makers of all time… Jason Schwartzman in an amazing jewfro… Bill Murray doing Bill Murray stuff… With all these ingredients and such a rambling title, it’s amazing just how regular A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charlies Swan III really is.
That’s not to say it’s bad and that I didn’t like it (it’s not, and I did). It’s to say that for all its affectations and “weirdness”, it’s actually a pretty straight forward affair. I’ll admit, it took me a little while to get into the flow of Charles Swan and I felt a little left behind by its first few scenes. But now I think that’s because I was looking for complications, trippy film making and rule breaking story techniques that just weren’t there. It’s a simple, straight forward story of heartbreak, told in a fairly simple and straight forward way, with the odd artistic flourish or exploitation of poetic licence to add a little colour here and there.
Until now, all I had seen of Roman Coppola’s work were the two Wes Anderson movies with his co-writing credit, The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom. And I really dig them both. I haven’t been able to track down his directorial debut, 2001’s CQ, but after seeing Charles Swan, I’m more keen than ever to give it a look.
Here, Sheen plays the titular Charlie Swan, a graphic designer in 70s Los Angeles, recovering from a recent breakup. Schwartzman is his best friend, a comedian who’s album cover designs are the basis of Swan’s successful design career, and the cause of his current creative block. Bill Murray is some sort of business associate, a manger or lawyer or accountant or some such. And an Arquette (does it matter which one) plays his sister. Blurring real life with fever dreams and, at one point, a dramatisation of Schwartzman’s stand-up act, Charles Swan is almost a series of vignettes telling the story of Swan’s relationship beginning, middle and end, just not necessarily in that order.
The closing scene, is a single shot tracking from a car park to the beach as various characters from throughout these glimpses into Swan’s mind pose for a photograph that will be the latest album cover for Schwartzmann’s Kirby Star. Once the photo is taken, all the actors break character and address the camera directly, smashing the fourth wall, telling the audience who they are and who they played. Even the composer who wrote the score gets his moment in the spotlight before the camera finally settles on a mirror, showing its operator, Roman Coppola. It’s an odd little closing moment at the end of an odd little film. And despite its abysmal box office takings and negative critical reception, I think A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charlies Swan III has enough bright points to make it worth eighty-six minutes of your time.