Thursday, December 23, 2010
Chameleon Street is a 1989 independent film written, directed by and starring Wendell B. Harris, Jr. an American filmmaker trained in drama at the prestigious Interlochen and Juilliard schools. Chameleon Street, a Gethsemane 84, Inc./ Prismatic Images, Inc. film tells the story of a social chameleon who impersonates reporters, doctors and lawyers in order to make money.
It's based on the true confessions of Detroit con artist and high school drop-out William Douglas Street, Jr. who successfully impersonated professional reporters, lawyers, athletes, extortionists, and surgeons. (In this last "role" he performed more than 36 successful hysterectomies.) One of the first films to examine how mellifluously race, class, and role-playing morph into the social fabric of America, Chameleon Street won the Grand Jury Prize at 1990 Sundance Film Festival.
This film is the work of an extremely creative mind. Wendell's performance makes you want to see more of his work but unfortunately there isn't much. There have been many great films dealing with impersonation and pretending to be what you aren't, it's an old story, Shakespeare's told it to everyone else but this is in no way redundant. It's a brilliant, entertaining, funny and well told story. Now, this is pre-Six Degrees of Separation, and watching the film it came to me that Will Smith has to love this movie and probably used it in preparation for Six Degrees. There are amazing similarities between the actors, not only in appearance but spirit and execution as well. There's also a scene with a Rubik's Cube that'll make you think of The Pursuit of Happyness and go hmmmm.
If you haven't seen this, do yourself a favor: rent it.