DOC NYC 2012 Round-Up Part 1: THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO IDEOLOGY, VENUS AND SERENA, CAN'T STAND LOSING YOU
DOC NYC, a New York documentary festival, is currently screening its third edition at the IFC Center and the SVA Theater. The festival, which this year has an especially impressive program, runs through November 15. Below are reviews of three of this year's selections.
THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO IDEOLOGY (Sophie Fiennes)Director Sophie Fiennes and superstar philosopher Slavoj Zizek re-team in this follow-up to their 2006 collaboration The Pervert's Guide to Cinema, and this new film is as riveting, funny, and profound as its predecessor. The formula is pretty much the same: Zizek, with his inimitably passionate, excitable demeanor, holds forth in an almost non-stop monologue, during which he analyzes numerous films to build his arguments. Fiennes puts it all together with a witty, stylish flair, the pertinent film clips always well-placed, and with Zizek often hilariously inserted into recreations of the settings of the films he discusses. Whereas their previous film concerned cinema itself as a subject, here Fiennes and Zizek expand their purview beyond the realm of movies, using cinema to illustrate how ideology functions in society, and how it underlies everything we see, do, and think, often without our realizing it. Analyses of such disparate films as They Live, The Sound of Music, West Side Story, Taxi Driver, and Triumph of the Will are harnessed to illustrate Zizek's thesis. Non-fiction clips also make appearances here: the World Trade Center attack, the London riots, the mass shootings in Oslo, Norway. It's a wild psychoanalytical and intellectual ride, and one that you'll want to return to again and again.
VENUS AND SERENA (Maiken Baird and Michelle Major)This well-put together cinema verité look at a difficult year in the lives of tennis phenoms Venus and Serena Williams also tells the story of their rise to fame and gives us tantalizing glimpses into their daily lives outside of the media spotlight. Culled from 450 hours of footage, Venus and Serena follows the sisters during 2011, during which they battled health issues that affected their performance on the court. However, often frustratingly, these glimpses remain only that, since the subjects always remain somewhat at arm's-length from the filmmakers, the sisters clearly always mindful of their media image. While the portrait of the sisters is positive, almost to the point of hagiography, one person that doesn't come off too well is their father and coach Richard Williams, whose overbearing manner and control freak nature, as well as the fact that he had another out-of-wedlock family, is also explored here. Venus and Serena Williams have reportedly withdrawn their support for this film due to objections with how their father was portrayed.
CAN'T STAND LOSING YOU (Andy Grieve and Lauren Lazin)
This lively documentary, based on The Police guitarist Andy Summers' memoir One Train Later, follows him during the band's 2007-2008 reunion tour, and flashes back to his musical journey and how he found his way to being part of a wildly popular group. "Every band I've ever been in breaks up," Summers laments in the film, and The Police was only the last, albeit the most successful, of his musical partnerships. Summers' predilection for photography, which grew out of extreme boredom on the road, is given space in the latter parts of the film. Summers, who narrates his own story, is a wry, often bemused observer of life within the rock-star bubble. One of the film's best scenes, which feels almost staged but apparently wasn't, occurs on a visit to Tokyo, where Summers wanders into a karaoke bar where the patrons are singing "Every Breath You Take." Summers joins the other singers, to their eventual shocked delight when they realize who he is. The vicissitudes of Summers' relationship with his wife are also given great prominence. It is personal touches such as these which elevate Can't Stand Losing You above the typical rock documentary.
For more information on the DOC NYC festival, and to purchase tickets, visit their website.