Bachelor Documentary Film Festival

As promised, here are my thoughts on the handful of films I watched this weekend:

  • Hard Core Logo (1996) – I’ve seen most of director Bruce McDonald’s films. He’s pretty well-known in Canada, and almost all of his films are “road movies” in one sense or another. In this film, he follows Hard Core Logo, a Vancouver punk band reunited for one last tour across western Canada. Though there are lots of laughs, This Is Definitely Not Spinal Tap. Even though his characters look like typical rocker louts, there is so much going on under the surface that it breaks your heart. A funny but heartfelt exploration of perpetual adolescence, male bonding, ambition and desperation, Hard Core Logo is even more enjoyable for anyone who’s ever been (or wanted to be) in a band. (As a bonus, the film stars Canada’s own version of Brad Pitt, the excellent and very cool Callum Keith Rennie). (8/10)
  • Fast, Cheap, And Out Of Control (1997) – This was a little bit disappointing. I’d seen Errol Morris’ later film Mr. Death (1999) and found it fascinating. In this film, though, even though he has four eccentrics to follow around (a lion-tamer, a topiary gardener, an expert on naked mole rats, and a robotics scientist), he mostly just conducts talking head interviews, and cuts in shots of the circus, and of a laughably bad B-movie starring famed lion-tamer Clyde Beatty. I just didn’t find the subjects all that interesting, and Morris never really explores their motivations or their lives outside of their careers, interesting as those might sound. (7/10)
  • Salesman (1969) – From the Maysles Brothers (Gimme Shelter, Monterey Pop, When We Were Kings) comes this unsettling portrait of door-to-door salesmen. In this case, the film is especially interesting since they’re selling Bibles to Catholic families. All the sales tricks are there, with a special dose of guilt. Most interesting is the portrayal of Paul, one of the older salesmen, who is realizing he may have “lost it.” His desperation is painful to watch. (9/10)
  • Dark Days (2000) – This film was a revelation, in more ways than one. First-time (and completely inexperienced) filmmaker Marc Singer had heard about a group of homeless people living in the train tunnels under Penn Station in New York City. After getting to know them for more than three months, he came up with the idea of making a documentary film about their lives. He thought that he could use the money the film made to find housing for all of them. The “subjects” of this documentary were full-fledged participants in the resulting film, serving as crew as well as cast. Singer lived with these people, out of love and sometimes necessity (he ran out of money for the film and was himself homeless for a while), and he lovingly portrays the humanity of this community. And it is a community in every sense. People build their own shacks underground, furnish them with found items, and are even able to hook up electricity. I can’t say enough about this film. This might be the only film I’ve ever watched straight through twice, just so I could hear Singer’s fascinating commentary. There’s also a 45-minute “making-of” which is essential viewing. A perfect soundtrack from DJ Shadow and a hopeful ending round out the experience. A must-see. (10/10)
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