For One Young Director, Film Noir’s as Dark as Crankcase Oil

SOMERVILLE, Mass. When Evan Winslow earned his bachelor’s degree in film from New York University last spring he had visions of being the next John Huston, or at least Peter Bogdanovich. “You spend four years in college exposed to nothing but works of genius,” he recalls a bit ruefully. “I must have missed the class about earning a living.”

Bogdanovich: “You have to start at the bottom, like I did, manning the popcorn machine.”

After receiving either form rejections or no response at all to some seven hundred resumes he sent out, he had exactly zero job offers in the film industry and his share of the rent coming due for the three-bedroom apartment he shared with his girlfriend Mindy Heinz, a budding actress, and two graduate students. “I’m not proud,” he recalls, “but I think filming weddings and bar mitzvahs would be a poor use of my cinematic training.”

“Un Chien Andalou is good–also Weekend at Bernie’s.”

Determined to put his artistic skills to use, he started his own video production company, borrowing money from his parents and maxing out several credit cards he’d received upon graduation. He found work almost immediately, but the subject matter was something of a comedown from the lofty themes of love and despair he found so compelling in the films of La Nouvelle Vague, the “new wave” French directors of the 1950’s and 60’s.

“At Mike’s Collision Repair, your car comes out smooth with no unsightly dents like Moose the auto body guy has in his head.”

“Basically, Somerville is the re-built engine capital of New England,” he notes with visible disdain. “Owners of auto body repair shops like to feature wives or girlfriends in their commercials, gracefully waving their arms like auto show girls.”

Dream scene: “I am floating in either used 10W40 oil, or the bad coffee in the customer waiting area.”

Evan tries to persuade his clients to “push the envelope” aesthetically, and to use Mindy in the commercials he makes for them, but he finds them resistant to change. “My girlfriend Debbie is better-looking and less depressing,” objects Tony DeMarino, owner of a towing business. “She also has bigger tits, but I suppose I’m not allowed to say that on the internet.”

Mindy, at a casting call.

So Evan and Mindy do what they can to enhance the film noir aspects of their 30-second spots, panning up from a running oil spill under a service bay to a graphic depiction of the grimy underbody of a Ford Taurus station wagon up on a rack, or enlivening a head shot of a used car dealer with a fleeting image of a wan and naked Mindy running along the back wall of a garage, beneath a rack of hanging fan belts.

Fan belts: Rarely used in the films of Jean-Luc Godard, despite his proletarian sympathies.

“I got that idea from Los Olvidados,” the Luis Bunuel classic, says Winslow. “I wanted to use the eye-slitting scene from Un Chien Andalou, but I decided to save that in case I move up to opticians.”

Available in print and Kindle formats on as part of the collection “Boston Baroques.”

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