Hollywood Buddha (5/10)
by Tony Medley
Philippe Caland wrote the story, and received a producer’s credit, for
Boxing Helena (1993), the infamous film that resulted on
the horrible judgement against Kim Basinger (which was mostly caused by
a morally corrupt judicial process, and which was ultimately reversed).
Subsequently he produced a film entitled Dead Girl (1994) that
starred Val Kilmer but never sold because, according to Caland, “the
town resisted it.”
This film became
notorious in the Buddhist community because the original poster for it
showed Caland sitting atop a head of Buddha. Apparently this is
sacreligious to Buddhists because there was an immediate furor, with the
film’s website getting more than 3 million hits, more than any other
film in a similar time frame. When I walked into the small screening
room in Beverly Hills, half the seats were taken by Buddhist monks,
there to give the film the once over. Before the screening the film’s
publicist issued a public apology to all Buddhists present, promising
that the poster was in the process of being changed and stating that
nobody connected with the film had any idea that the poster would be
Hollywood Buddha is
a semi-autobiographical tale of a writer-producer named Philippe (Caland)
who is deeply in debt as he’s building a house and living in a tent in
the back yard while he’s trying to sell a film entitled Dead Girl which
is about a man who is carrying around the body of a dead girl.
hounding him, everything goes wrong for him until he meets Jim (Jim
Stewart) who looks like a Buddhist monk. For $2,000 a month Jim rents
him a statue of Buddha to put in his backyard and gives him a mantra to
say. Immediately his luck changes.
While this might
seem pretty superficial and contrived, Caland is a good looking guy with
sex appeal (he spends a lot of the time shirtless) and a terrific
smile. As the Buddhist philosophy changes his karma, things seem to fall
The weakest part of
the film is Jim who says his lines as if he’s reading them. Next is
the contrivance of having Philippe’s next door neighbor, Betsy (Betsy
Clark, Caland’s wife in real life) leave her little girl with him
after they had only one vexatious meeting. Never in a million years
would a young mother leave her young daughter with someone like Philippe
with whom she had just had a fight.
point for anyone who knows Los Angeles is a scene where Philippe runs
into someone saying a mantra while he’s jogging in what looks like the
hills overlooking Chatsworth, where they used to shoot The Lone
Ranger, or Bronson Canyon in Hollywood. But these hills overlook
Will Rogers beach in Santa Monica. If you’re watching this in des
Moines, you probably wouldn’t think twice. But when you know Los
Angeles, the incongruity of locations yells out at you.
This is the
quintessential indie (a real family affair, in addition to Philippe’s
wife being played by Caland’s real wife, Philippe’s mother is
played by Caland’s mother). I enjoyed it because I thought Caland did
a good job of acting and that he exhibited a certain amount of charisma.
It’s only 88 minutes long and that’s a plus.
September 16, 2004