Stuck in the middle of Roger Avary’s faithful, amusing, absurd, and brilliant The Rules of Attraction is a four-minute sequence that rivals any consecutive four minutes of film released in the 2000s.
After we’ve met the narcissistic, lost Sean Bateman (younger brother of Patrick), the longing, lost Lauren, the explosive, lost Lara, and the repressed, lost Paul, we cut to a framed picture of the self-indulgent, lost Victor before cross dissolving to a plane flying through the air.
Then all hell breaks loose.
What follows is a gritty and hilariously precise montage of scenes tracking a spoiled college student as he tours Europe by himself. There’s no sound from the scenarios on the soundtrack, only Victor’s spot-on narration describing the debaucherous events we see. Music plays underneath, sound effects sparsely break through, the camera speeds up, then pauses, then plays in real time – and when the sequence is done, we realize that it’s possible to hold our breath for four full minutes.
What’s so damn cool about this scene is that we are thrown headfirst into a world we did not anticipate. We’ve heard about the character Victor (mostly from Lauren, who is obsessed with him), but we’ve never actually met him. The first time we see his face is in this groundbreaking sequence.
And I use the word groundbreaking very deliberately, because what Avary and Kip Pardue, the actor playing Victor, did to pull this scene off is just as amusing as the scene itself.
After principle photography wrapped, Avary, Pardue and producer Paul Oakenfold headed to Europe for two weeks while Avary shot 70 hours of Pardue in character getting into all sorts of shit. Women were screwed, drugs were consumed, violence was threatened – what we see on the screen was, in effect, exactly what happened. Oakenfold (who later won an Oscar for producing The Hurt Locker) had people sign waivers as best he could, but mostly, what was captured was unprecedented footage of an actor so in character that virtually every rule was broken. Hell, the rules weren’t even considered.
And while we watch Victor roam from London to Paris to Amsterdam to Dublin to wherever the hell, the scene is fueled by a catchy tomandandy song, and propelled by Victor’s laborious monologue, most of which is taken word-for-word from Bret Easton Ellis’ source novel.
(Favorite soundbites include, but are not limited to: “The wife turns out to be a freak. The guy starts to wig out on me. It's like a Polanski film...” “Ended up in Rome, which is big and hot and dirty. It was just like L.A., but with ruins.” “The next day, I drop some acid and get lost in the subway for a full day and can't find my way out.” And, arguably my favorite written line of contemporary literature: “I no longer know who I am and I feel like the ghost of a total stranger.”)
There’s an amusing anecdote around Hollywood that Avary cut an extended edition of Victor’s journey into a 90-minute film called Glitterati. However, because the film is said to contain real sex, real drug use and very little waiver-signing, Avary just shows it to his closest friends. I’d kill to see Glitterati in full, but I have a feeling it’d lose steam rather quickly. If it managed to keep the same pace as this Rules of Attraction scene, then I might just pass out, because really, who can hold their breath for 90 minutes?
Read Ellis’ thoughts on Glitterati here. (Jump to directly after the picture of a half naked Pardue.)
Previous installments of My Favorite Scene include: