Hot Docs 2012: Reviews 3
Our ongoing coverage of Hot Docs is coming to an end as the festival wraps up — but before we say goodbye for the year, here are a few more reviews of the films we’ve screened.
Radioman is the name of a character who lives and breathes film in New York City. He is known by all the big time actors and welcomed on the sets to play bit parts as an extra, and the industry loves him.
The film follows him around New York City as he calls his connections to find out what is shooting where, and rides his bike to the set with his famous radio around his neck. Once there, everyone knows who he is and the celebrities all take time to talk to him.
The story of how he ended up becoming Radioman starts out on a sad note, but the journey he takes you on leaves nothing to feel sorry for – he is one of the happiest guys you will ever experience.
After quitting his job as a mailman, he ended up homeless and with an alcohol problem. When he saw Bruce Willis (he had no idea he was a celebrity or they were shooting a film) on set looking homeless over 20 years ago, he offered him a beer. The star explained to him that he wasn’t actually homeless, that this was a movie set, and from that moment on he traded his alcohol problem for an addiction to the movies. He has been a staple in the New York film scene ever since. If a film was shot in New York, there’s a big chance he was one of the extras.
The film is told through interviews with Radioman himself, and with the celebrities who know him such as Matt Damon, Meryl Streep, Josh Brolin, Robin Williams, Tilda Swinton and more. The film also documents Radioman’s first time in Los Angeles for the Oscars, and how the cutthroat paparazzi nature of the city completely turns him off.
The resounding theme of the film is that if you want to be someone, there is nothing stopping you from making that happen but yourself – and that sometimes you don’t find what you love to do until later in life. Radioman is in his 60s now and has no plans to slow down anytime soon. It is a documentary that shows the power that film can have to inspire anyone to dream big.
SHUT UP AND PLAY THE HITS
Shut Up And Play The Hits is a concert documentary detailing the last LCD Soundsystem show ever at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The beautifully shot documentary also takes a personal look into the day following the last show, for the band leader James Murphy. He made the choice to pull the plug on the band and go out with a bang instead of fading away after only making three successful albums. His reasons for getting out are explained through interviews with Stephen Colbert and Chuck Klosterman where he details how success came later for him than most musicians. In his 30s, and now in his 40s, he has other things he wants to do with his life – like have kids and make coffee in the morning.
“I was 38 and I made a record – I blinked and now I’m 41” sums up his reasoning most accurately. The stress of touring turns him greyer and greyer every time, and he just wants out.
The question of whether he will regret the decision hangs heavily over his head in the time leading up to and directly after this last show, and the film captures this perfectly. Watching him burst into tears at the sight of all their gear locked up and put away for the last time is heavy in its significance.
He may one day regret saying goodbye so soon, but only time will tell, and the fans will always have the records to listen to – and if they were really lucky – the memories of that four hour goodbye show in New York City.
THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES
The Queen of Versailles is a fascinating look into the world of the super rich – and how the economic crash of 2008 affected the people at the top.
We are taken through the life of Jackie Seigel, 48, former Ms. Florida, current mother of seven, and owner of the largest private home in the world. Although at first she comes off like the spoiled trophy wife of billionaire 78 year old David Seigel, you begin to feel sorry for her as the film continues to document their life over the years of the economic crash.
Seigel’s business is at risk when the banks will no longer give him loans, and slowly but surely they go from building the largest home in the world – called Versailles, after the palace that inspired their home’s design – to trying to avoid foreclosure and sell it before it is even completed (not to mention cutting back on maids, private jets and all the luxuries to which they had become accustomed). Although it sounds ridiculous, when Jackie says “I wouldn’t have had seven kids if I didn’t think I could have lots of nannies” you genuinely feel sorry for her because she is suddenly overwhelmed with the reality of a situation she couldn’t see coming. She tries to hide her stress with a smile and be a loving wife to a husband who couldn’t care less about her – and is obsessed with saving his business and getting back on top.
While David freely admits he was the one who helped George W. Bush win the 2000 election through some “illegal” activities in Florida, you can sense some regret about that decision now that he is struggling to keep his business afloat.
The strength of the film lies in its ability to show us the way the “1 per cent” live while presenting them as real people dealing with the problems we all have to face. It would have been a different film if it only focused on their success and building their dream mansion, but the film provided an insight into the business world that is rarely seen because their lives suddenly became a struggle in their own way.