'Giuseppe Makes A Movie': Wroclaw Review

Courtesy of New Horizons Festival


Easygoing notes from a true cinematic underground.

Adam Rifkin's documentary showcases "trailer-park auteur" Giuseppe Andrews and his unorthodox rep company

Shoestrings form an ad-hoc, lo-fi social tapestry in Giuseppe Makes A Movie, Adam Rifkin's amiable tribute to no-budget auteur Giuseppe Andrews and his rag-tag troupe of trailer-park collaborators. Chronicling the breakneck, 36-hour shoot of 2007's Garbanzo Gas, the picture makes up in good humor and energy what it lacks in topicality. Having premiered at Toronto's HotDocs in April, it played the Los Angeles Film Festival two months later and could score with the city's hipper cinephiles during a weeklong run at the NuArt in October. Further festival bookings look likely for this warm-hearted descendant of Chris Smith's seminal American Movie (1999), while the rough-and-ready visuals certainly won't lose any impact in a transition to small-screen formats.

That said, there's a certain perverse delight in seeing Andrews' raggedy works — shot on a consumer-grade camera and primarily intended for home-video circulation — on a cinema screen, even via the (thankfully) brief extracts from his bulging oeuvre selected here by editor David Nordstrom. Counted by Andrews as his tenth "proper" film, Garbanzo Gas is a larkishly satirical comedy about a pair of motel-resident slackers and their encounters with a cow on vacation from the slaughterhouse. The lucky bovine is played, in dime-store costume, by an shaggy-bearded, wild-eyed actor known only as "Vietnam Ron" — drawn, like most of Andrews' cast, from his fellow residents at the Ramona Mobile Home Park in Ventura, California, within earshot of the Ojai Freeway's rumbling traffic.

It's a consistent pleasure to see the energetic, thirtyish, camera-wielding Andrews interacting with Ron and other members of his rep-company, the going-rate for whose efforts seems to be between $50-$75 per day. Eschewing the youthful casts, which generally dominate independent cinema, the engagingly articulate Andrews — whose cited inspirations include New German Cinema giant Rainer Werner Fassbinder and, specifically, the tramp-banquet "Last Supper" parody in Luis Bunuel's Viridiana (1961) — instead prefers collaborations with individuals of "a certain age."

Their craggy features are etched with experiences of tough lives at society's hardscrabble margins, temporarily alleviated, we deduce, by their presence on Andrews' welcoming "sets." Scene-stealer-in-chief: crotchety senior "Tyree," whose incontinence is captured in arguably intrusive detail by Rifkin's camera, but whom Andrews himself handles with lovely delicacy and tact. Such folks' acting abilities are as irrelevant as Andrews' own skill-levels as a film-maker production ("the vibe ... it's all that matters") is clearly more important than distribution and exhibition. The resulting fruits, meanwhile, recall the earlier reaches of John Waters' output, or the wackier fringes of Harmony Korine's. (Sample dialogue: "with my ejaculating elephant-trunk in my hands ...")

That said, it's worth noting that Garbanzo Gas did actually play festivals and picked up an appreciative trade-magazine review, back in the day. This exposure was likely helped by residual awareness of Andrews' previous career as an actor: He appeared in Independence Day, American History X and Pleasantville, was co-lead in enduring cult favorite Detroit Rock City (1999) — which, as this film omits to mention, was directed by Rifkin. After his eye-catching turn as a stoner cop in Eli Roth's Cabin Fever, however, Andrews' Hollywood career quickly evaporated. But given different breaks, or in some alternative universe, he could plausibly now be getting the roles turned down by the likes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The depression-related nature of his riches-to-rags arc, glossed over here, could yet provide profitable focus for a follow-up tracing the indefatigable live-wire's post-Gas emissions.

Production company: Blump's International
Director/Screenwriter: Adam Rifkin
Producers: Mike Plante, Adam Rifkin
Executive producers: Robin Greenspun, Peggy Johnson, Kate Payne, David C Sjoberg, Joanne Storkan
Cinematographer: Adam Rifkin
Editor: David Nordstrom
Sales: Cinelicious Pics, Los Angeles
No rating, 82 minutes