SHADOWS ON A WALL by Ray Connolly

SHADOWS ON A WALL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Hollywood satire from British novelist and screenwriter Connolly (Newsdeath, 1978, etc.) that spends almost no time in Tinseltown -- and that comes off more like a lumpy treatment for an overwrought TV miniseries than an indictment of the callow pop culture. When Charlie Holyoake stages his arty play about Napoleon and his Polish mistress at a Scottish theatrical festival, the bloated cinematic debacle that Shadows on a Wall will become is years -- and $100 million -- from Charlie's newly ambitious mind. But once amiable hack producer Harvey Baumberg begins to secure financing from unlikely quarters, it isn't long before Charlie's life goes completely to pot: Ensconced in LA, he receives a harsh intro to the contemporary studio system (money talks; no one reads anything but scripts), schtupps a starlet (wrecking a tender love affair with his girlfriend in London), and goes to war with director Bruno Messenger, a philistine enfant terrible. Matters worsen as the ante is progressively and ridiculously upped, from $5-million to $40-million and beyond, and the massive production organizes its location siege of Poland. The megalomaniacal Messenger effectively routs Charlie from the flick until the studio brings him back as a script doctor; though a wizard with images, Messenger can't do dialogue. Despite Charlie's efforts, the film -- while inhaling vast sums of cash from fresh, possibly shady financiers -- begins its downward spiral, which concludes (almost) with a quadruple murder. Throughout, Connolly never tires of comparing the location shoot of a movie to a military campaign: Armies of film people collide with armies of extras and blow through money like -- well, like Napoleon on his way to Moscow. A raft of secondary characters and mildly piquant sexual intrigues keeps the enormous plot surging toward its feeble, Capraesque finish. The stunning twin revelations here appear to be that movies cost too much and that Hollywood screws the writer. More stalwart than successful.

Pub Date: July 14th, 1995
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: St. Martin's