Filed under: Top 10 lists | Tags: barbet schroeder, Big River Man, crazy people, documentary, film, idi amin, john landis, john maringouin, lunatics, slasher
Three documentaries that you didn’t know you needed to see.
Do you think you’re nuts? Sometimes it’s nice to put your insanity into a new frame of reference. Here’s a few entertaining and therapeutic documentaries…
With extreme sports, it’s more sad than crazy when you watch a good doc and the protagonist doesn’t make it, like Andrew McAuley (R.I.P.) didn’t quite kayak across the entire Tasmanian Sea, and Ken Carter (R.I.P) didn’t quite fly his rocket-powered car over the St Lawrence River. But in this case, the outcome is success. Still, the smell of death lingers because the guy’s nuts. I mean that with respect. Martin Strel’s a fat, drunk gambler from Slovenia. He drinks two bottles of wine each day, followed by a few stiff drinks. He drives way too fast. And he holds world records for long-distance swimming, mostly in polluted rivers. Martin’s son shot this document of Martin’s latest dip into insanity, a 66-day conquest of the mighty Amazon (5,268 km). Preparations include buckets of blood that are used to distract the piranhas. Martin becomes one with nature. Swimming 18 hours a day, a bottle of whiskey floating along next to him. Perhaps the most illuminating story is how Martin developed his stamina in the first place: as a child he learned to outrun his angry father.
We all have problems. And, growing up, we often sublimate our neuroses into careers. I have a theory that salespeople and politicians are suckers for affirmation but they don’t really know when they’re getting it because they’ve gotten too good at faking emotions. Blockbuster director John Landis started to make this documentary about the sleazy similarities between used car salesmen and presidents. But he got distracted after meeting Michael Bennett, a travelling super-salesman who swoops in and revives dying car dealerships across the nation. Bennett is fast-talking, hilariously entertaining, and somewhat realistic (“If you keep walking straight ahead, and there’s a fucking wall, and you keep bumping your fucking head into it, and you don’t turn left or you don’t turn right, Hello!”). He smokes constantly, doesn’t know what city he’s in, and might be a manic-depressive. Watching Bennett’s nervous anxiety makes me feel like Cool Hand Luke. Thanks for the frame-of-reference therapy!
If you think you’re nuts and you happen to be the leader of a small country, then you ought to measure yourself up against this lunatic. The stories about Idi Amin are now legendary: he feeds his cabinet members to crocodiles; he challenges a foreign dignitary to a boxing match; he plays the accordion. He became dictator of Uganda by rising through the army ranks and eventually staging a coup. When famed French director, Barbet Shroeder, proposed to make a TV biography of the icon, Idi’s narcissism took over the production. The TV show became a feature-length movie full of staged ceremony and almost-behind-the-scenes footage. When Shroeder screened the film in France, Idi had spies in the audience. Unhappy with the editing, he took a hotel full of Frechmen as hostages, threatening to kill them unless new cuts were made. It’s not called a self-portait for nothing!
Feeling better about your location in the ranks of human nut jobs yet?