Documentaries can be quite the stimulating film genre. It helps to remember that it’s all fiction, docu or no, and the last one I viewed – The Kid Stays in the Picture — exhibited an awareness of this up-front.
The film begins with a quote from its subject, the movie producer Robert Evans, to the effect that there are three sides to every story: Your side, my side, and the truth. And no one is lying. Shared memories serve each differently, says Bob.
Evans’ story is a Hollywood story in fact and in narrative arc. It’s the classic American story Hollywood so loves to tell: young man with a dream plays his breaks perfectly, stays true to his vision, gambles….and wins (including the girl).
But it doesn’t end there, as this is the chronicle of a man now in his later years. After reaching the pinnacle – successful head of Paramount studios — there is the inevitable decline.
I won’t go into the details of either Evans’ rise or fall. But I will encourage you to see the film and check it out for yourself. The film is very well crafted, with a good many brilliant stretches. Evans’ life was well-documented in photographs, and the filmmakers put the photos — and excerpts from his films — to extraordinarily good use.
Evans became the head of Paramount during the late ’60s and early ’70s, and helped usher in that era’s down-to-earth focus. At this point in the film, Evans, in his film-long voice-over narration, says that good films begin with good scripts. “No wonder he was a successful producer,” I remarked to my friend, who had already seen the film. “Wait until you see the films he made,” he replied. I won’t reveal those here (that’d be like giving away the plot), but rent it and find out, along with the stories behind them. You’re in for a treat.
What can I say about Bowling for Columbine? It’s a Michael Moore documentary, and if you’ve seen any of his others, you know just what to expect. And I hear ya, right-wingers: Yeah. A buncha lies from a self-serving wacko leftist egomaniac.
I don’t know about that. Is a nightmare a lie? Because that’s what this film is. Its centerpiece and most disturbing section is closed-circuit camera footage from inside Columbine High School during the massacre, with 911 calls from the incident as the audio. That section is followed by footage of Charlton Heston in Denver about 10 days later speaking at an NRA meeting, bellowing about guns. That’s the film in a nutshell. Or maybe gunshell. Crazy, violence-obsessed, gun-obsessed culture absolutely unaware and unconcerned for the toll on human life of such insanity.
Thank goodness Cirque du Soleil was on Bravo the night I watched my “for your academy award consideration” copy on loan from my film critic friend. After Bowling for Columbine, I needed to watch something expressing the mystery and beauty of the human spirit.