Hot Times at Cold Shea

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04/14/2009 9:00 AM |

Last night, the Mets played their first regular-season game at their new home, Citi Field. L film critic and jaded Mets fan Michael Joshua Rowin commemorates the occasion by noting an unexpected connection with Anthology Film Archives‘ just-concluded Jim McBride series.

How strange that a day before the Mets officially inaugurated their new stadium, the embarrassingly named Citi Field, I should happen to catch 1974’s Hot Times. The last independent film by the director of faux-documentary classic David Holzman’s Diary, Hot Times is Jim McBride’s failed but loving attempt at stoner sex farce, with Semitic take-offs of the classic Archie gang fiending for pussy amidst the bedrooms, gymnasiums and desolate landmarks of Queens. The film flops for a number of reasons: the cruddy sound quality makes the rat-a-tat dirty screwball exchanges inaudible, the arbitrary and inconsistent beeping of curse words lends an air of prudishness to what should be an uninhibitedly ribald atmosphere, and poor showings by most of the cast kill any sense of comedic timing. But because of its slovenly charm Hot Times is still one for the photo album, a snapshot of post-sexual revolution lib and let-down, from the artistic pretense of mainstream pornography to the icky incestuousness of with-it family members to the continual frustrations of the overwhelmed "red-blooded American guy," here embodied by our hero, blue-balled Archie Anders (Henry Cory), forever seeking the lay everyone else seems to so easily land.

Where do the Mets, er, come in?

Last year I wrote a piece on this blog about the best films to prominently feature my team from Flushing. Of one of Shea Stadium’s most notable big screen roles, in Wim Wenders’ Alice in the Cities — wouldn’tcha know it, also from 1974 — I offered this statement: "leave it to a European eye to capture seemingly banal yet secretly majestic Shea." Well, leave it to McBride, native NYC son, to capture the same, but here in a more appropriately metaphorical scene of unfulfilled expectations as Archie and Bette (Amy Farber) drive to Shea on New Year’s Eve Day for an appearance by the latter’s beloved Maharishi. Archie goes along only for the prize put on hold by Bette’s horoscopic superstitions, but it turns out Shea’s parking lot is barren: enlightenment is being spread at Yankee Stadium. Archie pipes in the Bronx ceremony from the radio and begins to seduce Bette into backseat copulation as the Maharishi intones a sermon about rechanneling sexual energy into more "constructive" mind/body awareness. Bette orgasms, yet ends the session because she’s gone against her guru, leaving Archie in a state of painful delay of game. In writing of Shea in Alice I described the stadium as "part playground, part prayer center," and indeed that’s what we have in Hot Times, thus bringing together some of my favorite things: cinema, sex, religion, and the Mets (as a sheepish Archie fan, the perverse use of Riverdale’s citizenry is also right up my alley). Most importantly, McBride’s feel for environmental karma is disturbingly perfect: especially considering the last three years of down-to-the-wire trauma at Shea, it’s only fitting that an act of coitus interruptus take place and be preserved for all time on celluloid with the now demolished stadium (RIP) looming sad and empty in sight. The only question: were Archie and Bette half-satisfactorily banging on the spot Citi Field now stands? I pray not . . .