Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 2009. Anisma Films. Screenplay by Angela Ismailos. Cinematography by John Pirozzi. Produced by Patricia Romeu. Music by Joel Douek. Film Editing by Christina Burchard, Sabine Hoffman.
Angela Ismailos travels the world interviewing filmmakers of note and having them speak on camera about their experiences and achievements. A wonderful assortment of artists are happy to share their opinions and memories, from David Lynch talking about the career-changing introduction to Mel Brooks, to Agnes Varda reflecting on aging, Catherine Breillat discussing censorship and John Sayles spelling out the realities of studio versus indie filmmaking. The film clips are wonderful reminders of why these artists are so integral to the development of the artform, but the relevance of these conversations for the sake of this documentary are never particularly clear. It could simply be a project in which Ismailos shares the pleasure of spending her summer meeting famous people, but her constantly cutting to her serious face reacting to her interview subjects (and her rather ill-conceived sequences showing her walking through empty squares and landscapes) means that she intended this to be an important and notable experience. The talking heads are all happy to be there, but there’s no centralizing focus and the information is all over the map: stories about Bernardo Bertolucci being on the set with Brando don’t go that deep, while Todd Haynes spends most of his segments talking about other filmmakers and little is made, thematically, of Sayles talking about his experience writing The Patriot (in which the studio turned history into blind fiction). Anyone who is a fan of any of the people involved will get great pleasure out of this, and I can’t blame Ismailos for wanting to include so many figures, but there’s a feeling of being spread too thin that results in this one feeling inessential.