By Paulene Kale
Hot Tomorrows is an extremely low-budget film, written, directed, produced, and edited by Martin Breast; it was shown at the 1977 New York Film Festival and will play at the Entermedia Theater in New York this month as part of the American Mavericks series. Breast made this seriocomic movie, with macabre musical numbers, for $33,000, plus some deferments. If economyt dictated the use of black-and-white stock, Breast turns this to his advantage in stylized film noir effects. It's a typical young-filmmaker's film, in the sense that it's film-obsessed, nut Breast's obsession takes a baroquely original form: to him, old movies--Hollywood musicals, in particular--are memento mori. His hero, Michael (Ken Lerner), an aspiring writer from the Bronx who is living in Los Angeles, is sorrowfully in love with Laurel & Hardy and the other dead entertainers whom he watches on the screen. Michael's childhood friend Louis (Ray Sharkey) is out visiting him, and as they pal around Hollywood on Christmas Eve--the glum intellectual Michael suggesting Oliver Hardy, and little Louis, who just wants some action, suggesting Stan Laurel--everything they encounter reminds them that life hangs by a thread. Each reminder has a quirky unexpectness--from a radio announcer's predictions of holiday traffic fatalities to a cadaverous combo at the Paradise Ballroom, with a mock-Dietrich vocalist (Marie Elfman) singing the mournful "Jonny," and a man (Danny Elfman) singing "St. James Infirmary." There has never been a movie so comically centered on death in life and life in death. Breast writes easy, naturalistic dialogue that comes across as a series of riffs; whatever the characters start to talk about, death always enters in, and the impossibility of avoiding the subject gets funnier all the time--like a good, broad burlesque-house joke.