The Passion of the Rad

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

"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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