'Delirious' is a rags-to-riches satire about a deranged paparazzo and a wannabe thesp.

A high-energy rags-to-riches satire about a deranged New York paparazzo and a wannabe thesp, “Delirious” is hilarious. Though none-too original in what it says about image and authenticity — thematically it’s not too far from helmer Tom DeCillo’s “The Real Blonde” — pic speaks with style, verve and genuine wit. An all-or-nothing perf from old DiCillo hand Steve Buscemi and a script that leaves no ironical stone unturned make this laugh-out-loud fare. Things flatten during the last half hour, but by then pic has earned its points. Sharp marketing could bring this accessible, smiling assault on the fame industry to auds beyond DeCillo’s savvy followers.

Pic, which took best director and best screenplay awards at the San Sebastian fest, kicks off with the punchy pop of the Dandy Warhols’ “Bohemian Like You,” which sets the mood for all the vigor and charm to come.

Good-looking homeless kid and wannabe actor Toby (Michael Pitt) stumbles across a gaggle of paparazzi, including Les Galantine (Buscemi), desperate to get a shot of pop star K’Harma Leed (Alison Lohman) as she’s leaving a club. The proud highlights of Les’ photog career are shots of Goldie Hawn having lunch and Elvis Costello without his hat.Toby inveigles his way into Les’ chaotic apartment and before long, he’s Les’ unpaid assistant — but not before he and K’Harma have swapped a meaningful glance.

An overheard conversation leads to an overnight stakeout by Les and Toby, and they get a photo of a singer recovering from a penis operation. Les is overjoyed at the $700 he makes. 

At a Soap Stars Against STD convention, Toby meets casting director Dana (Gina Gershon, terrific), then once again encounters K’harma, who was recently ditched by b.f. Jace (Brit thesp Richard Short). One thing leads to another, until Toby spends the night with K’harma in a hotel and finds himself on a ladder that will lead him into soap stardom.

Buscemi, in full-on human rat mode, delivers a manic comic perf as a self-deceived man who is secretly, and a little tragically, aware of his self-deception. Pitt as the blank Toby is a fine counterpoint, and most of the big laughs come from their exchanges.

Away from the boys, the script turns its sharp-eyed attention to the lifestyle of the talentless K’harma.

Pic’s multiple riffs on the fame industry are nothing new, but thescript is so busy having fun and sending up the absurdities of contempo PR-speak that it doesn’t push its obvious message. Still, DiCillo finds time to go a little deeper, as when Les bitterly reflects that “a friend is someone waiting for the chance to talk about himself.”

Lensing, as befits the generally delirious air, is often furious hand-held, but occasionally things slow down to give a sense of the alleyways of the Gotham underbelly.

Music, mostly snatches of pop, is key to the overall effect. Worth listening to is clever “Take Your Love and Shove It.” Pic’s final scene — a brief, telling coda — runs after the end credits.

Delirious

Production

An Aurum release (in Spain) of a Peace Arch Films/Artina Films production in association with Thema Production. (International sales: Peace Arch Films, London.) Produced by Robert Salerno. Executive producers, Jimmy de Brabant, Michael Dounaev, Kami Naghdi, Mark Balsam, Gary Howsam, Lewin Webb, Barry Zemel, John Flock, Jennifer Levine. Directed, written by Tom DiCillo.

Crew

Camera (color), Frank G. DeMarco; editor, Paul Zucker; music, Anton Sanko; production designer, Teresa Mastropiero; art director , Mylene Santos; sound (Dolby Digital), Patrick Donahue. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (competing), Sept. 25, 2006. Running time: 107 MIN.

With

Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Alison Lohman, Gina Gershon, Callie Thorne, Kevin Corrigan, Richard Short, Elvis Costello, Tom Aldredge.

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