“My Elevator Pitch for Les Fleurs du Mal 3-D,” by Joseph S. Pete

Jul 27th, 2011 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

Sir, do you like $300 million? That’s what the last teenybopper vampire flick grossed stateside, so you’ve got to ask yourself: What else could rally another million moody girl march on the multiplexes? I’ve got your answer: poetry. That’s right, poetry. Can’t you just hear the susurrus of credit card swipers across the country swelling into a mighty crescendo?

Of course, not just any verse will do for our purposes, because the snicker-snack of the vorpal blade or the fog coming on little cat feet isn’t going to pack them in. No, you’ve got to know your audience, so you need something that’s romantic and dark and ideally French. We’re talking of course Charles Baudelaire, an exotic bad-boy heartthrob if there ever was one. You’ve got the “my throne is in the heaven’s azure deep” crap to show he had a sensitive side and the gonorrhea that proved the dude knew how to get down.

Now his greatest work, Les Fleurs du Mal, or The Flowers of Evil, has got love, sex and lost innocence–all the great themes that have put those dashed-off vampire novels in book bags across America. I’m telling you, sir, an adaptation of Les Fleurs du Mal is going to be a ninth-inning grand slam with a prime demographic with enough disposable income and free time to win the all-important opening weekend. You’ve got darkness, dissolution and passion as “the paradise below,” whatever that means. We’re talking box-office receipts that will mount–with vigorous wing–to those luminous serene fields that Chuck went on and on about.

(Elevator stops; everyone else exits.)

Of course, we’re going to need to make some changes because–let’s face it–salon no longer means what it did in 19th century France. Of course, we’ll have to have the usual updates like hair-gelled Tiger Beat cover models with the abs of Michelangelo’s statuary, but we’ll also have to readdress the whole evil flowers business. That’s been done before, with A Little Shop of Horrors–maybe you’ve seen it? So the flowers can’t be oversized monstrosities that devour their victims, but they still have to be evil in a way that we would understand today. I thought about maybe slapping swastikas on their petals and having them march into Poland. But that’s something more for old duffers when they aren’t sneaking cigars in the garage. They don’t get out, let alone to watch movies. No, we need something evil that the kids are familiar with. We need to get high concept with this thing.

I was mulling it over when it stabbed me right in the small intestines. Who other than kids pays to go see those movies where teens get cut up like fruit in the Cuisinart? It’s got to be a slasher flick, but flowers don’t have the opposable thumbs or the height and heft to do a credible Michael Myers. We’ll of course need a new gimmick, and I was thinking maybe they could spit acid. You see, this thing is going to have to be in 3-D to maximize the gross, and we’ll want an effect that will thrust itself in the face of the audience. As everyone knows, the kids today will shell out more for the whole spatial disorientation trip.

(Elevator doors open; more people board.)

So these evil flowers spit acid–which is symbolic like the whole symbolist poetry thing, by the way–but it doesn’t have to be a dozen face-melting deaths in a row. They could for instance burn through a flagpole that impales a main character when you least expect it. They could defenestrate some pop star in a tiny but buzz-generating supporting role by chasing her onto a radiator in a second-floor high school classroom, cornering her and collectively heaving her into the courtyard. You could cut to the point of view of a teacher looking out over rows of students bored out of their marijuana-softened brains when the pop star suddenly thuds in a violent bloom of blood mist just outside the window, in the background of the frame. But even the acid itself has many possibilities, such as gaping holes in the torso and erased limbs that cause a victim to slowly bleed out before you abruptly cut to the next scene.

A good question you didn’t ask is why the flowers would spit acid. Well, they took Baudelaire’s advice and were drunk all the time, whether on wine, poetry or virtue, but mostly on vino. I’m thinking maybe Gallo, since flowers realistically wouldn’t have much coin until they unite and rise up against their florist oppressors. But the bottom line is that it’s the projectile vomiting of besotted blossoms. We could have an eccentric scientist character–and I’m thinking Christopher Lloyd would knock it out of left field in Fenway–to provide exposition about how they’re all winos and how their unique biological makeup causes them to spew caustic puke that would eat clear through the engine block of a Cadillac. I really think they need to be drunk off their roots because, above all, we’ve got to remain faithful to the source material.

(Elevator stops; building security enters.)

So, as I was saying, maybe you could even have some expository scenes where the flowers were… Well, wait, hold on, I’m talking great poetry here. I’m talking a movie that will revolutionize how we randomly pick something from a vending machine outside a fast-food restaurant. I’m talking…

(Author’s Note: This pitch took place in a skyscraper in San Diego, the seraph of Southern California and the movie capital of the world.)


John Donne, William Wordsworth, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning were all great poets. But, unlike Joseph S. Pete, none of them ever won a four months’ supply of Pabst Blue Ribbon by placing second in the poetry category of the 2010 PBR Art Contest. The Indiana University graduate, a Chicagoland native, also has won numerous awards for his newspaper reporting, citations for nebulous concepts such as good conduct during his time in the service and a calculator at a circus raffle. He is a deeply bitter man.




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