Thursday, 1 May 2014

GIUSEPPE MAKES A MOVIE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - HOT DOCS 2014 - Ed Wood + John Waters = Giuseppe "Detroit Rock City" director Adam Rifkin captures the workings of a genuine underground filmmaker. This surefire Film Corner HOT DOCS 2014 MUST-SEE is replete with infectious joy, sadness, hope and desperation.

When Giuseppe makes a movie, he prides himself on doing it all. This includes wiping the bum of his elderly incontinent leading man, "Grandpa" Tyree.

The simple math of Garbanzo Gas
Giuseppe Makes A Movie (2014)
Dir. Adam Rifkin *****

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Preamble -
Discovering the Mad Genius
of Ed Wood and John Waters.

When I was about eight or nine-years-old, I first saw Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space and not long after, Bride of the Monster. Keep in mind that this was the late 60s and even though I was a super precocious know-it-all movie nut, it took a second viewing of Plan 9 to identify that Ed Wood was not only the same guy who did Bride of the Monster, but that he was someone with the kind of distinct approach to movies that I was already starting to develop for much more stellar filmmakers as John Ford, Frank Capra and Alfred Hitchcock. I knew he wasn't in their league, but I distinctly remember thinking Wood's films were cool anyway, for one simple reason. I could tell there was something not quite right about them, but whatever that thing was, it didn't necessarily seem wrong either.

Whenever either film popped up on television, I'd watch them and in my mid-teens I finally saw Jail Bait. Its discovery thrilled me at the time because I had been wondering if Wood ever made more than the two aforementioned horror pictures and now I knew about three of them. Keep in mind, there was no such thing as the internet in the 60s and 70s, hence no imdb or wikipedia to look that sort of thing up. Even the original Forrest J. Ackerman "Famous Monsters of Filmland" only ever referred to Plan 9 and Bride of the Monster and, to my recollection, never with derision.

In 1975, I discovered John Waters via his cult masterpiece Pink Flamingos which not only shocked me with its utterly delicious depravity, but at the time, I recall thinking it too, had the same kind of "homemade" quality as Ed Wood's films and, in its very own way, it also didn't seem quite right, but that this was what made it so great. Though it's hard to argue Wood was an "underground" filmmaker like Waters would have been considered at the time, he was enough on the extremities of Hollywood that he sure felt like it. When I caught up with Waters' Female Trouble that same year, I recall noting how both Wood and Waters used a regular company of actors.

By the time Michael and Harry Medved released their famous 1980 book "The Golden Turkey Awards", I was shocked to learn that, by ballot no less, readers of their previous book "The Fifty Worst Film of All Time" voted Plan 9 From Outer Space as the "worst film of all time" and that the Medved boys personally chose Ed Wood as the "worst director of all time." To this day, I vociferously disagree. Once I caught up with other Wood pictures (especially Glen Or Glenda), I was convinced he was, in his own way, as mad a genius as John Waters. It was way back then that I started developing a severe distaste for the expression "guilty pleasure". I've never felt guilty taking pleasure in any of Wood's films nor, for that matter, in any number of titles cited as being "so bad they're good". I also appreciated Tim Burton's loving biopic tribute Ed Wood, a movie that still rates higher in my books than any others as a picture that perfectly captures the sheer infectious joy and obsession with movie-making.

An independent auteur like
no other before him. Iconoclasm Rules.
The Film - Giuseppe Makes A Movie
Giuseppe Andrews makes Ed Wood and early John Waters look completely mainstream, but like them, he's a true original. Nobody, but nobody will ever make films like his. Closer, perhaps, to the spirit of Ed Wood, albeit with a great deal more artistic aplomb, he makes movies with his own brand of joy and obsession. To say it's infectious is an understatement. A doff of my hat in Adam Rifkin's direction is in order for taking time away from his prolific family-movie screenwriting career (Small Soldiers, Underdog) to craft this wild, wooly and supremely entertaining documentary on Andrews. The sometime actor who appeared as a kld in Rifkin's own Detroit Rock City as well as bits in Independence Day, Pleasantville, American History X, Never Been Kissed and the first two Cabin Fever movies, eventually opened to a new chapter in his book of life as steady acting gigs got fewer and far-betweener.

Giuseppe's real claim to fame is having directed over 30 micro-budgeted underground films. Andrews is a fringe-player of the highest order. Out of his fevered imagination, he crafts work that captures a very desperate, real and sad truth about America's fringes that are, frankly, not so outside the Status Quo as the country descends even deeper into a kind of Third World divide twixt rich and poor. Through Rifkin's lens we see America according to Andrews, a country rife with abject poverty, alcoholism, exploitation, cruelty and violence. Trailer parks and cheap motels provide the visual backdrop by which Andrews etches his original portraits of depravity (but always tinged with humanity).

Giuseppe Makes a Movie focuses on the making of his 1K-budgeted 2007 film Garbanzo Gas, the tender tale of a cow sent on an all-expenses-paid trip by a slaughterhouse to a sleazy motel in order to have one last fling at life before being dragged back to be butchered. Rifkin's doc gives us a full picture of Andrews' creative process from script writing to production and it's a joy to behold.

He writes some of the richest dialogue I've ever heard. It's the grittiest, most musical gutter poetry imaginable and it's all about sex (often inextricably linked to violence). He casts his films with a regular company of actors who are, for all intents and purposes, homeless men of varying ages and all suffering from a variety of booze and drug addictions. Some of them want cash, but most of them are happy to work for beer and/or rotgut. On occasion he'll literally drag people off the street.

The Bottom line? His actors all seem like they're having one hell of a good time. Aside from the booze perks, acting in Giuseppe's movies offers them an alternative outlet to express themselves, but also, given the ferocity of the dialogue, one senses they also get a charge out of venting whatever they must vent via the florid vulgarity of his words.

Andrews' excitement is infectious.

He gets his cast to reel off these cool lines of dialogue by first barking the lines out himself as the gentlemen (and one lady) repeat them again and again until they nail what the mad auteur is looking for. This is electric stuff and the movie is often charged with its own kinetic energy, fuelled by Andrews' own implosions and explosions.

At times, these drunk, stoned and/or incontinent actors spout the tough-minded, richly purple and often hilarious monologues that reminded me, and indeed rival some of the best dialogue from Russ Meyer's equally purple-prose-worthy bag of tricks. Meyer, like Wood, early Waters and, of course, Giuseppe Andrews, all exemplify pure independence.

Giuseppe has help to do all this. His Dad, whom he lives with in a trailer park, is a part-time session musician who worked for years as the lead guitarist for The Bee Gees. He's the money-bags and all-round producer. They make a great team and it's especially touching to see their clear love and respect for each other even when they have disagreements. The two men are separated by generations, but linked by blood and creativity. They also know, after 30 films together, how to make movies for virtually nothing - it's complete and total DIY. No job is too small or dirty for these guys, though Giuseppe appears to have the regular honour of cleaning the soiled ass of his favourite actor, an incontinent old drunk named Tyree.

Rifkin wisely doesn't go out of his way to editorialize. He pretty much shoots what he sees and assembles it into its own unique fever dream of Andrews' life. For his part, Giuseppe is clearly a committed artist. He loves certain filmmakers like Pasolini, Fassbinder and Godard, then mercilessly craps on "fake" indie filmmakers. He displays disdain for cinematic storytelling convention (though he clearly seems to understand it) and most fascinating of all, he works completely on impulse but at the same time remains true to his language, themes and initial goals.

He admits to going through a patch of depression when it looked like his acting career was going nowhere, but no further probing on that front seems necessary. Giuseppe is clearly ill, but he's equipped with the ultimate anti-depressant, filmmaking. And look, I'm no psychiatrist, but I have a funny feeling that he clearly exhibits signs of mood states not unlike hypomania which include huge highs and lows plus a heightened sense of disinhibition. Many artists experience this and if, indeed, Giuseppe is going through a series of hypo-manic episodes (or something close to it) throughout the making of Garbanzo Gas, we get a rare, unbridled glimpse into that inner spirit, that flame burning within his synapses and how it yields creativity unbound.

Rifkin remain respectfully detached - as he should be. Too many filmmakers would be tempted to do one of those offensive, condescending and easy "Oh, let's make fun of this nutcase" style of film. Obviously there are plenty of talentless Status Quo hacks out there who could and would do that, but it would be a loss to the rest of us and Giuseppe. Frankly, to toss off someone like Giuseppe Andrews as an oddball, an eccentric or a quirky goof would display a complete lack of understanding, imagination, feeling and appreciation for what makes a true artist.

Yes, he might be quite insane, but he is an artist, for Christ's Sake and a damn fine one at that. Our world would be a much better place with more people like Giuseppe Andrews. Maybe someday we'll see a movie from him that nails all the boring buggers to the crucifix they deserve to be affixed to. If he does it, you can bet it will be rife with the humanity that pulsates through his work and courses through his veins until it spurts like geysers of gorgeously glistening viscous fluids upon the boundless tapestry that IS cinema.

Giuseppe Makes a Movie is playing at Hot Docs 2014 in Toronto. Get further info HERE.