Four Documentaries (MFF 2010)

Watched: William S. Burroughs: A Man Within
Interesting for a person like me who needs to learn a great deal about Burroughs. The docu has no driving theme, however, and exists pretty much solely as a series of historical footnotes primarily dealing with the most popular periods of the writer’s life, celebrity appearances abounding. I cannot say what “A Man Within” references.

Three documentaries in a row, all night long, each comfortably under 90 minutes. At the time I enjoyed myself well enough, but in retrospect I think it would be wiser to give them a each a few words al2getha.

Last Train Home
Every year, something like 100 or 200 million migrant workers all leave their jobs to return home for the Chinese New Year, and it’s called the “largest human migration in existence.” Cool! I was pleased to think of humans as ‘just another species’ and these trips as feral ‘migrations.’ Still, the film is much less about this process as it is about a massive lower class, specifically two parents and their daughter. She and her little brother are left behind in rural nowhere – the family’s home – while the parents work in a textile plant 2000 miles away, I believe. They work there all year long and only return on the New Year celebration, which is a trial by any standard. Smarter than her parents, and feeling to be under no obligation to them whatever, great discord is sown by the daughter when the parents return for their one trip to be met with spite and indignance… and not unjustifiably so, the situation is absurd for all involved. The film’s greatest strengths are questions it poses (intentionally or not) about the value of such a life, the similarities between lower classes and slaves, and the seeming impossibility of elevating oneself. In the end, the daughter runs away to the city, and I think that’s the smartest thing she could’ve ever done. Sadly, this very intriguing film never goes further than asking the questions and opening a window into this bleak world. It’s quite interesting, but with perhaps more work, planning, time, it could’ve been absolutely incredible.

The Red Chapel
Another film that is fascinating and contains a wild amount of potential, but goes virtually nowhere since the filmmaker entered into it with almost no plan. Lars Von Trier’s production company, Zentropa, produces and delivers Danish asshole Mads Brügger, who takes his comedy troupe buddies to North Korea as a sort of performance practical joke to showcase the absurd tyranny of the isolated socialist nation. Of our crew of three, one is a spastic, meaning little more than he sounds dysfunctional when he speaks. The North Koreans force him to be moved in a wheelchair at all times and try to use him to represent the humanity of the North Korean people – despite his having high intelligence, a great sense of humor and total control of his body. The troupe’s production is overwhelmed by the North Korean government, and watching them navigate the country – just to do ordinary things – is absolutely terrifying. I’ve never seen inside North Korea before. It’s incredible – farcically so. It’s not far from Nazi Germany.

man’s second chance allows him to live in an alternate universe of models and fantasies which sprawl into an epic obsession. His obsession, however, has quite a different bent than we thought, but the film’s producers asked me not to talk about it. Really.