Sunday, June 28, 2009

Afterthoughts: Documentaries: Odd Couples

One of the things I most enjoy when I'm going to documentaries is that sometimes I’ll see a couple in a row that unexpectedly have themes in common.

Rock—And Roll Film

Take Anvil! The Story of Anvil, about a Canadian metal band that has stayed together for 30 years without making it big, and The Windmill Movie, about Richard P. Rogers, who spent about 30 years hoping to make a documentary about himself and his own sense of inadequacy—and never could.

The core members of Anvil turn out to be two Jewish men from Toronto, at least one of whom seems to be a high-school dropout, while the Harvard-educated Rogers comes from a WASP background and inherits a house in East Hampton.

This is a fascinating pairing, because they’re both about failure. Anvil really is a flop, at least on the commercial level, but they keep on plugging anyway, with surprisingly open hearts. Rogers isn’t really a mediocrity, except in the context of his own hypermonied and artistically overachieving milieu, but he thinks he is.

In some ways, I found it hard to get a real handle on the personalities in either movie. What I came away with, however, was a sense of the importance of family and friends—the love and support for the quixotic endeavors in both cases. (If the aims in question weren’t positive, would I call this enabling?)

Trance 10, Looks 3

Last week’s combo: Unmistaken Child and Every Little Step. Both were lovely films, and admittedly about wildly different subjects. In retrospect, however, I see a thread!

The first is about a monk who treks from remote village to remote village in a particular region of Nepal, interviewing baby after baby until he finds the one infant with that special something—the characteristics that will tell the monk that this is the child in whom his revered Tibetan lama has been reincarnated.

Every Little Step weaves the story of the development of the original A Chorus Line with a step-by-step report on the casting of the legendary show’s first Broadway revival.

In a sense, they’re both about auditions—one from the point of view of the casting director (that monk conducting tryouts until he finds the one actor who’s truly right for the role) and the other primarily from the perspective of the prospective performers—all those dancers praying, “god, I hope I get it.”

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