Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Biopics - "How raw do you want it; stripping to the bone."

On Sunday night I saw Rubbings of a Live Man, a creative biopic about actor Warwick Broadhead. Who is Warwick Broadhead? Well, before I saw the biopic I knew nothing. I am a fan of biopics though. Real life does tend to be stranger than fiction, and real stories are more powerful as a result of it

There are the typical ones: a straight, chronological reenactment such as: Walk the Line, Malcolm X, Ali and Ray. Malcolm X was particularly impressive to me. I saw Walk the Line on Sunday, and thought it a nice yarn but nothing special, other than Johnny Cash was a rather tortured individual. Drugs and alcohol can do all sorts to a man, and that is a story that needs to be told. I'd look forward to a Brian Wilson biopic one day.

But another kind of biopic, which I'll call a creative biopic, delivers an experience as well as the story of a life. My first encounter with one of these was American Splendor, the life story of Harvey Pekar. I knew nothing about him before I saw the film, but the movie not only engrossed but also caught the imagination. The movie jumped about; it intercut to the real Harvey Pekar talking in his real idiosyncratic way during his reconstructed life. Most importantly, the film did cut to the bone, leaving no stone in his life unturned.

Rubbings of a Live Man went a step further in that the film's subject participated in artistic reenactments of his own life (!), sometimes as himself, sometimes as another character, whether it be his own mother, a momentary lover or God himself (or, shall I say, God with an attention disorder). There were no holds barred. It cut to the bone: The human nature revealed; it brought him to tears at one point and said the words quoted in the title to the director. The reenactments were occasionally whimsical, sometimes brilliantly surreal (the first being so truly perfect, it shocks). The preparation for each scene recorded as well, showing perhaps the truest of true person: Him in his natural habitat. Incidentally, none of his seventy-plus performances have been recorded, this film being the only audiovisual impression of his accumulated craft. It is a performance like no other.

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