|Evolution of a Criminal|
|Giuseppe Makes a Movie|
Quick capsules on three of the week's new documentaries:
Darius Clark Monroe's "Evolution of a Criminal" gets credit for uniqueness: the director, a film student at NYU, had been an honors student in high school before robbing a bank and serving a five-year prison term. The film is at once a sort of mea culpa, personal catharsis, and continuing exploitation of his crime. The word "evolution" suggests a gradual downfall, but the reality is simpler: the only son in a family living hand-to-mouth wanted a magic pill that would ease his mom's and stepdad's financial struggles.
Monroe fails to set the scene. I would have liked to know more about him as a young man and scholar (and, while we're at it, what state we're in) before the robbery, which is re-enacted here using a storefront business to stand in for a bank branch. The effect is embarrassing. There's just no two ways around it; by hook or by crook, you've got to use a bank. Monroe conducts an extensive interview with just one of the bank customers (and none of the employees) who were there on the day; we watch, inexplicably, from a car as he knocks on the doors of others to make his apologies. We hear from the prosecuting attorney, cautiously hopeful that Monroe has turned his life around, and the two friends who acted as his accomplices (one of whom also got five years and the other of whom was not charged).
Adam Rifkin's "Giuseppe Makes a Movie" follows Giuseppe Andrews, a onetime child actor with parts in "Independence Day" and Rifkin's "Detroit Rock City," as he films, in two days, and on a $1,000 budget, one of his thirty-odd avant-garde movies (with titles such as "Cat Piss" and "Who Flung Poo?"; the one chronicled here is called "Garbanzo Gas"), peopled by alcoholics and drug addicts, trailer park residents and the homeless, whom Andrews pays $20 or $50 to don cow costumes, engage in simulated sex, and recite his demented and hilariously profane dialogue. You wouldn't want to touch any of these folks with a ten-foot pole, but neither have you seen anyone quite like them, and there's a certain Ed Wood charm to Andrews' keep-the-camera-rolling doggedness and gleeful outsider spirit.
Finally, a film based on a blog: Ari Cohen's "Advanced Style," from his blog of the same name about stylish and fashionable women ages 60 and up. We meet about a dozen of Cohen's subjects and spend significant time with six of them, and it's a pleasure to witness the joy that looking good and dressing well continues to bring them. Still, this material seems better suited to a television special (and at 73 padded minutes, could easily make one); it's unfocussed and unstructured, and I think you'd get more out of a look-see at the blog itself: http://advancedstyle.blogspot.com/