A tale of trying to get opportunity to knock when you don’t even have a door, “Hollywood Buddha” is a refreshingly unpretentious cocktail of karmic serendipity and a tongue-in-cheek look at Hollywood values vs. ecumenical verities. Helming debut by Philippe Caland — a venture capitalist whose eight producing credits include the original idea and funding for “Boxing Helena” — is droll, suspenseful and consistently entertaining. Technically modest outing is slated for French release this fall.
A French producer based in L.A., Philippe (Caland) is living in a tent while construction work on his house drags on. “Dead Girl,” the film he financed five years prior, still hasn’t sold anywhere and Philippe is desperate for funds. The unpaid builders intend to retaliate by destroying the kitchen-in-progress, Philippe’s g.f. wants to go back to France, he owes his brother money, and the bank is about to foreclose.
Philippe’s spiritual adviser, Jim (Jim Stewart), a Buddhist, convinces him to obtain “the most powerful Buddha in Los Angeles” — a sculpture he lugs to his provisional digs. Then, strangely, Philippe’s luck turns. It looks as if the universe has agreed to help him evolve from desperate to solvent and perhaps beyond. The steps via which this transformation takes place will register as funny to showbiz insider and layman alike.
Self-financed, ultra-indie effort, shot on weekends and starring Caland, his family and friends, has a rough-hewn charm and a pleasantly mystical sense of forward momentum. There’s not a trained thesp in sight, but pic’s homemovie aspect works in its favor.
Caland is winningly low-key as the former mover and shaker whose next move may be to the gutter. Caland’s real wife, Betsy Clark, convinces as a widowed neighbor who’s been putting up with construction noise for two years; and Gloria Payne, a fruit vendor from the Farmer’s Market, is fine as a possible savior with a problematic past. Caland’s gym trainer, Nikki Stalder, is a good fit as the recalcitrant star of “Dead Girl” whose career has taken off since she debuted in the title role. Appropriately meditative score by Claude Chaloub is a real plus.
For the record, Caland was actually involved with a pic called “Dead Girl” (1996), a morbid black comedy about Hollywood starring Val Kilmer and Anne Parillaud.