I’ve been in a documentary mood lately (it comes in fits and starts) and have managed to stumble on some rather interesting ones. Here we go:
1. Henry Darger: The Realms of the Unreal. Very sweet and rather sad story of a janitor nobody really noticed who, upon becoming ill, was found to have created an illustrated novel of over 1,500 words by his neighbours.
Titled The Realms of the Unreal, it was an entire universe he’d worked on his whole life. It truly proves you can never have anyone completely figured out, and ‘boring’ people probably don’t exist – we just don’t know what’s going on inside.
2. Derailroaded. In a similar theme to the previous entry, Derailroaded explores the life of Larry ‘Wild Man’ Fischer. Plagued by mental illness, Larry nevertheless had flirtations with fame first by appearing on Frank Zappa‘s label Straight Records and then releasing albums with out there artists Barnes and Barnes.
Whether you like his music or not is beside the point, this is a fascinating film of an unusual personality. On the flip side, though everyone already knows about this I’m sure, I also loved the film about Daniel Johnston. Watch that one too.
3. Live Nude Girls Unite. Strippers formed a union and took their argument to a tribunal? I can hear you chuckle. However this shows each of the characters involved in the fight for fairness at club The Lusty Lady through the eyes of Julia Query, a woman who strips between comedy gigs.
I found this film quite amusing, so maybe you will too. It’s very low-fi and quite short, but it was a fun way to pass an afternoon.
4. The Last American Freak Show. I’ve mentioned this one before but I like it, so I’m mentioning it again. As a disabled man filmmaker Richard Butchins is uncertain of the ethics behind freak shows and rightly so.
The 999 Eyes travelling show is ramshackle, poorly organised, ill equipped to deal with all of its member’s problems and the owners spout constant nonsense about why freak shows are actually really good. But…its this unexpected turn of events that makes it so fascinating. We glimpse the reality of life on the road and meet some genuinely interesting characters. And meeting new people is good.
5. Man on Wire. I’ve seen this film lots of times and I’m sure everyone else has too, but it’s beautiful and very French and it contains a circus performer, so why not hear about the tight-rope walker who balanced his way between the World Trade Centres in New York one more time? Plus the music by composer Erik Satie helps me sleep at night.
Well, Bob’s your Aunt and Fanny’s your…cousin, that’s your lot. Before we pop orf however I’d like to leave you with two lilting melodies garnered from the films mentioned. Number one is the dreamlike piano of Erik Satie, and number two is a rousing tale of fish heads and their various uses by Barnes and Barnes: