“Anatomy of a Werewolf” by D. A. Metrov
(with vintage photographs from the ’70’s)
DESCRIPTION: An unusual type of memoir from Metrov’s life in New York City and Los Angeles in the 1970′s & ’80’s.
From the Forward by author and film critic, Brad Stevens…
D. A. Metrov – formerly Douglas Anthony Metrov – is one of those undefinable, unconfinable figures who existed in the very heart of the 1970s New York art scene. A widely admired (by Mick Jagger, among others) painter, he has led parallel lives as a musician, actor, screenwriter and novelist.
Cinematically, Metrov first became known for his collaborations with Abel Ferrara: one of his apartments (as well as his paintings) can be seen in Ferrara’s early short COULD THIS BE LOVE, while another of his apartments provided the primary location for Ferrara’s THE DRILLER KILLER (a film based on one of Metrov’s ideas) in which Ferrara plays an artist named Reno Miller, who spends his time working on a painting of a buffalo which is actually Metrov’s ‘The Gift’ (currently hanging in the Hall of States at the National Visitors Center, Washington D.C.). Metrov also played the key role of punk musician Tony Coca-Cola in this film (under the pseudonym ‘Rhodney Montreal’) and many of his 70s paintings – including ‘Apprehension of the Mysteries’, Christ Blesssing the Little Dog’, ‘Portrait of Ms Fontaine Murphy’, ‘Nude a Capone’, ‘Self Portrait’ and ‘Self Portrait with Dick Tracy’ – can be seen decorating Reno’s apartment (while images from his ‘Adam & Eve’ series adorn the walls of another location representing an art dealer’s office). Ferrara admits to having based his performance on the man he still refers to as ‘The Great Metro’.
Like Julian Schnabel, David Salle and Robert Longo, Metrov made the move from painting to directing. SOLARBABIES, his first screenplay, was purchased by Mel Brooks, and was to have been Metrov’s directorial debut. In the end, it emerged in 1986, totally rewritten and badly directed by Brooks’ choreographer Alan Johnson, and quickly vanished. Metrov subsequently wrote another 25 or so screenplays, none of which made it to the screen: “I finally gave up, though I swore I never would. I had to give up, because otherwise I’d only push my dream further and further away. That’s just the dynamic of my karma. It’s like chasing a cat. The more you chase, the faster he runs away. But if you just sit still and ignore him, next thing you know he’s purring against your side”. In 1999, Metrov wrote, produced, and directed DARK SPIRAL: “We made that movie for no money in my apartment inWestLA.I got all my professional actor friends to be in it. Everyone worked for free. We shot it in one week. It was the worst week of hell in my life. I finished the film, and nobody was the least bit interested in it”. Metrov’s next film was LITTLE EDEN, made in 2004. Since then, he has made several short films and continues to prep new features.
Metrov’s work, in its eclecticism and vitality, admirably conforms to Manny Farber’s description of ‘termite art’ which “goes always forward eating its own boundaries, and, likely as not, leaves nothing in its wake other than the signs of eager, industrious, unkempt activity.” ANATOMY OF A WEREWOLF – one of seven books Metrov has written – provides a perfect example of this tendency. Like Metrov’s career as a whole, ANATOMY refuses to sit still and behave, to confine itself to one category where it can be neatly labeled. The book – whose first draft was written in 1992 while Metrov was working as a maintenance man in what he describes as ‘the Building from Hell’ – consists of three interacting strands:
1- A diary being kept by the nameless narrator, who tells of his experience working as a maintenance man in the Building from Hell.
2- Although we learn little about the Maintenance Man’s past life, we are told a great deal about his friend the Magus, whom, we are informed, disappeared a few years previously. Of course, the Magus is none other than Douglas Metrov, and this strand of the book provides a detailed account of Metrov’s life and career in which only (some) of the names have been changed to protect the guilty: the cast of characters includes the Piltdown Man (Abel Ferrara) and the Ten Thousand Year Old Movie Star (Mel Brooks), who produced THE MOST WONDERFUL KIDS’ ADVENTURE MOVIE (SOLARBABIES).
3- The Maintenance Man’s screenplay, MANCHILD, whose werewolf protagonist suffers from a curse we are encouraged to read as a dark reflection of the Magus’s drug and alcohol addiction.
Each of these strands has value in its own right (the section dealing with the Building from Hell is strikingly reminiscent of Charles Willeford, while if there were any justice in the world, MANCHILD would go into production immediately), but their interaction generates a much greater complexity: erasing the line between autobiography, fiction and screenplay, Metrov’s book, though never didactic, provides the literary equivalent of Eisenstein’s cinematic montage.
ANATOMY OF A WEREWOLF stands in marked opposition to contemporary American literature: in a culture where the best is what sells the most, and whose artistic representatives speak to us in those terms likely to attract a consensus, Metrov’s distinctive voice is more valuable than ever. He does not address his audience as consumers: indeed, like so many termite artists, he does not seem to be addressing an audience at all, but rather throwing his works – paintings, screenplays, novels – into a void where they will be left to fend for themselves. He stands with those American mavericks committed to an artistic practice which puts me in mind of the Rachel, that “devious-cruising” ship which appears at the end of MOBY DICK and which, “in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan.”