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Alphonse Redux III

DAD (ALPHONSE)

INT DAD’S APARTMENT – NIGHT
Opening shot from above.  The apartment is mostly dark – maybe just a lamp in the corner is on.  Everything is pretty thrashed – it’s clear that there’s been a fight here.  Now, DAD is lying on his back, propped up a little bit against the couch.  He is a young man, probably not yet 30.  He wears jeans and an ironic t shirt.  A short sword protudes from his chest.  The carpet around him starting to pool with blood.  His eyes are wide, staring blankly ahead.  His mouth hangs open a little, and his breathing can be heard – a wet wheezing.  ALPHONSE is sitting on the ground a few feet away, looking at his old man.

ALPHONSE
You know, this didn’t go at all how I thought it would.

DAD rolls his eyes over to look at ALPHONSE.

ALPHONSE (CONT’D)
I mean, yeah, this is how it was going to end – I knew that.  But I was thinking we’d get to talk a little first, you know?  It just all happened so fast.  Not that I’m apologizing.  Life is tough.  You do what you have to, and sometimes, people get hurt.  You taught me that.  I get that.  But there’s a lot you haven’t heard, and I kind of wanted to tell you about it.

DAD coughs a little, blood trickles out of his mouth.

ALPHONSE (CONT’D)
Don’t worry, I’m not gonna get all moralistic.  I understand where you were coming from.  Mom is hot, or
at least she was hot, once upon a time.  You guys were drunk, and juiced up to boot on that special concoction that jump-started yours truly.  When you got the call about the stork, what were you supposed to do?  Marry a junkie slut, settle down and raise a family?  I mean, if it’d been me, I probably would have done the same
thing.  Hang up, move on, let the guys at the clinic clean up the mess.

Close on ALPHONSE, who looks away. His voice drops from its chipper patter.  Then, as he begins to speak…

CUT TO:
FLASHBACK
Needle going into MOM’S arm.  Stuff being injected is black – Frankenstein, the synthetic drug that makes ALPHONSE into what he is:  a super-baby with an in-utero psychic link to Mom, so that he can see her dreams.  Maybe follow drug molecules, CSI-style, as they interact with cells of the ALPHONSE zygote, follow electrical signals in the embryonic brain as they spark to life, then cut to fetal ALPHONSE, one eye snapping open as he hangs suspended in darkness.

ALPHONSE (V.O.)
But it wasn’t me who got that phone call.  It was you.  And I was the mess they couldn’t quite clean up.  Oh, boy, was I a mess.  That was some special stuff you fed her.  Did you know that as soon as she found out about me, she started dreaming about me?  And did you know that I had a front-row seat for that nightmare show? My own personal world of early educational programming, starring me.  And the best part?  We went into reruns after the first damn episode.  Every single night, the same damn thing.

CUT TO:
INT DAD’S APARTMENT – NIGHT
ALPHONSE looks over at DAD, sees that DAD’S eyes are starting to close as he loses blood.  ALPHONSE gives DAD a little kick, jolting him awake.

ALPHONSE
Hey, you listening?  Yeah, I know – other people’s dreams are always boring.  But stay with me, because I think you’ll like this one.  You’re in it, too.

CUT TO:
FLASHBACK
Start with swirling, dreamlike mass of faces and memories:  Mom, Dad, fetus.  Except fetus is wrong somehow – it’s a threat, a parasite, a problem.  Then, as ALPHONSE speaks, we get images:  fetus pursuing MOM down a dead-end alley.  Fetus throwing chains around MOM fashioned from its own umbilical cord, binding himself to her so that she can’t even crawl away.  And then, a miserable, terrified MOM making the decision to summon THE MACHINE from the comic book:  a nightmare of robotic arms holding surgical instruments, a huge suction tube, a holding tank full of fetal body parts.  In short, MOM’S anxiety-formed image of the equipment involved in an abortion.

ALPHONSE (V.O.)
Like I said, you weren’t the star of the show, Pop.  That was me.  I was the one chasing her down.  I was the one putting her in chains.  I was the one who ruined her life.  And I was the one she sent to the machine.  She was terrified every time, miserable about what she was doing.  But she still did it, every time.

THE MACHINE advances.  ALPHONSE the dream fetus stops his pursuit of MOM and turns to face MACHINE.  Then DREAM ALPHONSE looks to one side and spies dream DAD standing in the shadows, watching.

ALPHONSE (V.O.)
And every time, you just stood there in the shadows, watching.  Like you weren’t supposed to rush in and save me.  Like you weren’t even supposed to care.  Like you weren’t my goddamned father.

CUT TO:
INT DAD’S APARTMENT – NIGHT
ALPHONSE has, while he was speaking, gotten up and gotten in DAD’S face – that’s how we see him now.  But as he finishes his sentence, he relaxes a little, backs off a step, gets philosophical.

ALPHONSE
It would have been one thing if you’d tried to kill me.  Like that Greek dude – Saturn.  The one who ate his kids so that they wouldn’t rise up and take over.

CUT TO:
Crudely animated vision of Goya’s “Cronus Devouring His Son.”

CUT TO:
INT DAD’S APARTMENT – NIGHT

ALPHONSE
That I could understand, maybe even respect.  But you didn’t try to kill me.  You didn’t try to do anything.

CUT TO:
FLASHBACK
THE MACHINE seizes ALPHONSE, begins to ready to kill him.  ALPHONSE looks again to DAD, silently screaming for him.  Dad doesn’t move, doesn’t blink.  THE MACHINE begins work on ALPHONSE, we can be as clean or as graphic as people think best.

ALPHONSE (V.O.)
Every time, the machine would start in on me, and it would be horrible, and just before it sucked me into that tank full of little bits of heads and hands and everything else, she’d wake up.

CUT TO:
FLASHBACK – MOM’S HOTEL ROOM – NIGHT
MOM waking up in a sweat in her filthy, awful hotel room.  MOM curling into a ball on the bed, weeping.  MOM reaching for needle, plunging it into arm, eyes rolling back, pupils dilating.  Cut to interior shot of ALPHONSE, eyes rolling back, pupils dilating.

ALPHONSE (V.O.)
And then she’d reach for the needle.  Of course, by then, she wasn’t using the fancy stuff you gave her, the stuff that made me so very special.  By then, she was using regular old heroin, and so I was using regular old heroin, too.  That was a trip.  I still need to hit up every day or so.  But you don’t need to hear about that.

CUT TO:
INT DAD’S APARTMENT – NIGHT
ALPHONSE is standing now, starting to pace.  DAD is looking near death.

ALPHONSE
Hell, you don’t need to hear about any of this.  It’s not doing you any good.  And you know what?  It’s not doing me any good either.  I thought it would help to let you know that I sympathized – but then, I’m not the one with a sword in my chest, so what does that even mean, really?

CUT TO:
FLASHBACK – DAD’S APARTMENT
As ALPHONSE speaks, we see what happened here a few minutes ago.  At “confront my demons,” we see ALPHONSE surprising DAD in his apartment, sword drawn.  At “work it out,” we see DAD making for the door, only to have ALPHONSE leap in front of it with unnerving speed.  At “share my pain,” we see ALPHONSE slashing DAD’S arm.  At “get some closure,” we see ALPHONSE sliding sword into DAD’S chest.

ALPHONSE (V.O.)
I thought if I could express to you how I feel – you know, confront my demons, work it out, share my pain, get some closure –

CUT TO:
INT DAD’S APARTMENT – NIGHT
ALPHONSE slumps a little.

ALPHONSE
Well, I thought it would help somehow.  But now I’m here with you, Dad, and we’ve been through all that, and I’ve even gotten to say what I wanted to say, and I have to tell you, I don’t feel any better.  Really, I don’t feel much of anything at all.  It’s a letdown, you know?  You spend all this time dreaming of something, and then you get to the place where your dream comes true and – you realize it just doesn’t matter.

Camera holds on DAD’S face.  He is dead now.

ALPHONSE (CONT’D)
Still, it isn’t all bad news.  I’ve learned something here today, and that’s a good thing.  I’ve learned that I’ve been focusing my energies in the wrong direction.  I’ve been obsessing over that vision of you, standing there in her dream, just watching as I got fed to the machine.  You abandoned me when I needed you most, and that was bad, but now I see the larger truth, the real problem:  you weren’t the one handing me over.

Camera pulls back to show ALPHONSE moving over to DAD,
planting a foot on his chest, and pulling out sword while he
talks.

ALPHONSE (CONT’D)
It’s so obvious, I’m almost embarrassed to admit it.  I can’t beleive that it’s only now, after our whole deal has been taken care of, that I am able to see what it is that I need to do.

ALPHONSE wipes the blood from his sword.

ALPHONSE (CONT’D)
I need to go see Mom.
END.

Comments

  1. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    ‘Can you take it? Can you take this Catholic literature?’

    Yes and heck yes. The liturgical year isn’t even over yet, and already, by some dim dazzling coincidence, these last two days have almost felt like Christmas.

    First, a gift arrived in the mail from my buddy Bob Simpson: a seven-panel comic adaptation of ‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find’, of which he’s posted an image on his blog (SPOILER ALERT!) http://theresadarknessuponme.blogspot.com/2011/11/art-and-literature-good-man-is-hard-to.html

    Second, Lickona posts fresh episodes of Alphonse’s roaring rampage of revenge — and they are gooo-ood. I am amazed that Alphonse actually managed to kill his father: He really does have at least one death on his little hands (and conscience?), then. The stakes actually are life-or-death. Did that surprise anybody else? In hindsight (and without knowing the conclusion of the whole story), this drastic storytelling choice does seem right.

    And the thought of Alphonse monologuing with Jack Nicholson’s voice, or just a Jack Nicholson-type voice, makes good even better, and sick even sicker.

    But the better the product, the more frustrating its failure to reach a market.

    Mr Lickona, are you keeping track of how much money it would take hire Mr Gugliotti, a letterer, and to pay whatever other expenses would bring ALPHONSE: Issue 3 to completion? Obviously you have more information, and more personal investment, than anybody else here; and if, after all your efforts, you truly think the project is stillborn, I won’t bug you about it. But if there is a trace of hope for ALPHONSE in some medium or another, I would like to know. And, based on the comments to your previous ‘Alphonse Redux’ scripts, it would seem I’m not *quite* alone in that.

    But I’ve thrown around the first-person singular pronoun way too much. Time to shut up and sit back.

    Good luck, Mr Lickona, if there’s any luck left; and in any event, thank you for sharing what you have.

  2. I’ll be as brief as Angelico is verbose (in a lovely way).

    ***Damn, that’s good.***

    And I want an answer to A’s question too.

    p.s. The death doesn’t surprise me, entirely. Violence begets violence and all.

  3. Matthew Lickona says

    Thank you both kindly.
    It costs about $5K to produce each issue. There are three left in the original script. (None of these short films covers events in the original, which was as short as possible for reasons of expense.) Part of the reason I’ve kept at it is because a lot of people were super generous in helping to get the first two made. I’d like to see it through. But fundraising for the third issue on kickstarter petered out well short of the goal, sales for both issues one and two were insufficient, and both the TV and movie people who approached on it eventually backed off. I don’t know quite where else to go with it.
    But thank you again for your kind words.

    • Matthew Lickona says

      p.s. I totally want to read that Event Machine comic done by the guy who did the O’Connor comic.

    • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

      Thank you very much for explaining the situation in this detail, Mr Lickona. Insufficient sales of the first two issues is troubling, and raising $15,000 to complete the comic-book series sounds very daunting.

      If you don’t mind answering: Would there be any clear downsides (apart from the risk of newly wounded pride and dashed hopes) to kick-starting a new Kickstarter campaign for Issue Three? Enough time has passed since the last request that this doesn’t sound tacky to me.

      • No clear downsides. I just don’t think the drive is there on enough people’s part. I got a bunch of press during the last Kickstarter campaign, and took the idea to bunches and bunches of people, and…nope. Now, I’m not sure if a comic book is a medium that people want to donate to. I sometimes think it would be better to raise money for one of these short films. I dunno. Most of the time it just feels like a noble failure.

        • I would love to see this as a short film. I also think “comic book” has a stigma attached to it that short films don’t. There are lots of people who might not have given this a look in comic form who might be more interested in a film treatment. I can say this with conviction because I used a lot of qualifiers in that sentence and I also don’t really know what I’m talking about. But I am deeply sincere.

          • You may be right. But stigma or no, comics are much cheaper to produce, generally. I’ve gone to everyone I can think of. I’m wide open to suggestions.

          • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

            As a booster for the comics medium, I hate to admit it, but you two are probably right about flix having wider appeal than comix. (At least for now. This may be gradually changing; or I may be deluded — on which topic…)

            Mr Lickona, I’m sure I can’t say anything on this matter that you haven’t already thought, said, and/or tried. But, while going about other business, and with a healthy(?) mix of hope and pessimism, I’ll keep a lookout for chances/channels to bring Alphonse back to market. I can’t not. The core concept is too good to leave alone. To say nothing of the… execution….

            Meantime, thanks for sharing these scripts, and thanks very much for the status update.

            Excelsior!

            • This is a serious question–what is the difference between a comic book and a graphic novel?

              I mean, Doestoevsky wrote in installments…OK, so certain parts of Crime and Punishment don’t connect at all; details, man!

              I think another Kickstarter campaign has nothing to lose.

              • I’ve got to say, I was talking to my husband about this on the trip to the in-laws–the guy actually writes fiction (unlike me), and if totally fine with using a conceit to talk about something else–and when I started with what Alphonse was about, he looked at me like I had cracked. In a bad way. When I sallied forth and went on describing it, he became really intrigued. I think there is a first reaction which is offputting, but its exactly the strangeness of this that is compelling.

              • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

                Ironic Catholic,

                Your question about ‘comic books’ v. ‘graphic novels’ is a good one. The artist/writer Will Eisner probably invented the term ‘graphic novel’ in the late 1970s or early ’80s, when the term ‘comic book’ was already well established — and heavily stigmatized. The way I think about it, graphic novels are all (or practically all) a sub-category of comic books: namely, comic books that tell stories that are long enough to be novels.

                (And your Dostoevsky comparison is apt: Two of the most acclaimed graphic novels, The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, collect chapters that were first published separately and serially, as miniseries.)

                To get even more precise, I’d say we’re talking about at least three levels of useful distinction here:

                1) Sequential art: This is storytelling via pictures that are meant to be read in a certain order. It includes the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the Stations of the Cross at your parish, Green Eggs and Ham, comic strips, and comic books.

                2) Comic books: These are books that tell their stories by sequential art.

                3) Graphic novels: These are comic books that tell novel-length stories.

                If you’re looking for a little light reading, once you finish your Theology of the Body book, please allow me to recommend Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. It’s a quick and easy read (in comic-book form!) but almost Aristotelian in the way McCloud breaks down the elements of sequential art and explains how they ‘work’: http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Comics-Invisible-Scott-Mccloud/dp/006097625X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1322470874&sr=8-1

                And on your second comment: I agree about what makes the concept of Alphonse compelling. Its ultimate attraction is inseparable from its initial repulsion.

            • Angelico,
              Thank you. On the initial repulsion question: I should note that the TV people were high on the character, and that they had lots of lovely things to say about the pilot. And then they started talking to money people, and everything ground to a halt. So yeah. A lot of people have the initial repulsion thing.

  4. Jonathan Webb says

    Excellent.

  5. notrelatedtoted says

    Lickona – I just got through all three installments today. Seriously good, my man.

  6. Ironically on Thanksgiving, I must ask for more.

  7. This website truly has all the information I wanted
    concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

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