The Passion of the Rad

An enigmatic independent auteur may have made the world’s next great midnight movie

According to Mr. Rad, he was raised in Tehran, one of four children of a successful physician in the Iranian army, and later educated in London at an adjunct of Cambridge. Returning to Iran, he worked as an architect—amassing a fortune of several million dollars—before turning to filmmaking and completing 11 films in Farsi. In 1979, when the shah was deposed, Rad managed to get out, albeit without his millions, 24 hours before Khomeini came to power, relocating to Los Angeles, where his mother-in-law lived. Since then, he has made two feature films in English—Under the Skin of Night and Tough and Restless—about neither of which there appears to be any information. He claims to also be the author of more than 100 songs and 1,000 poems, is writing a memoir-cum-manifesto and, outside of his vaguely opera buffa presence, seems like a very nice man who has lived a normal life, devoted to raising his three now-grown children. He is, however, not the slightest bit fazed that his film—which is being revived for a single midnight screening this weekend at the Edwards University theater—may finally be finding its audience.

"My father told me something I never forgot: 'Impossible is impossible,'" Rad says. "I have been an architect, which I consider myself one of the best. I've done a lot of different buildings in different places in the world. And, too, I'm a filmmaker. I create differently. If it is bad, it's a bad different. If it's good, it's a good different. I don't follow anybody's technique but my own. For instance, if I am really hungry—as an architect or a filmmaker or any profession—and you come and give me all the money in the world, and you say, 'Do something like that,' even when 'that' is one of my own works? Impossible. I walk alone, as I have been walking alone all my life."

Consider the case of Douglas Sirk, another misunderstood Hollywood émigré, whose signature melodramas from the '50s were crafted with a heightened, operatic uplift, then revived as camp a decade later and now seem wondrously dreamlike. None of those responses is incorrect. And in our irony-drenched age, his daunting confidence and purity of vision carry with them a kind of disheveled dignity—oblivious to his own limitations, and to those of the world around him. The same kind of cockeyed optimism, perhaps, that would lead someone to four-wall a film in the shadow of Hollywood, without an ad campaign, then sneak into OC for one night, in the hope that his audience will find him. When musical savant Daniel Johnston and folk artist Henry Darger can command their own documentaries, why shouldn't the outsider filmmakers among us deserve our encouragement? As those much closer to the pulse of the Zeitgeist might observe: "That is so John Rad."

Dangerous Men screens at Edwards University, Irvine. Sat., 11:59 p.m.

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