Sunday, July 31, 2005
So this girl walks into a theater...
One weekend. Two documentaries.
The first was on DVD. A so-so execution relating the reclusive life and incredibly sad times of artist/novelist Henry Darger--a brilliant janitor who closed out the world that closed out him first (to the extent of an extended detention in an "asylum for feeble-minded children" during his semi-orphaned youth). Still, he managed to create 15,000 homemade pages of an eccentric children's book that told the adventures of the Vivian Sisters and their war-against-child-slavery travails. If you've ever caught a glimpse of Darger's work, you'll recognize the slightly uneasy, yet fascinated feeling you experience while gazing upon his pre-pubescent, water-colored warrior girls. While Jessica Yu deserves credit for dedicating five years of her life to bringing his story to the big-screen via In the Realms of the Unreal, a few missteps like odd narration choices keep this from being an end-all retelling of his life. Intriguing and heart-wrenching, all the same.
The second was on the big screen, although its photography didn't really warrant a stadium-seating, adjustable arm-rest $10 viewing. The film: The Aristocrats. The subject matter: a vaudevillian joke that's been handed down through the comedic ages like a mother's revered fried chicken recipe. It's a nasty piece of work with a throwaway punchline, but I found it very entertaining watching famous comedians like Paul Reiser and George Carlin breaking the nastiness down in scholarly terms. As the joke is quilted together in julienned editing cuts, an interesting experiment in comedy analysis is born. I wouldn't recommend it to those with lily white ears, but for those who are fascinated by what makes funny it's a winner. My favorite retelling of the obscenity was by my comedy heroine Sarah Silverman who showed off the finely honed acting/timing/delivery chops she so seldom flexes in her feature film appearances. A shout-out to Gilbert Gottfried and Taylor Negron, too, for their comedic relief 9/11 takes on the material, and kudos to Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza who saw the genius in the enterprise in the first place. A movie audience bursting into applause after a mime's interpretation of the filth can't be a bad sign.