Point and Shoot
Baltimore native Matt Vandyke is an interesting guy. Diagnosed with OCD in his teens and raised with a love of video games, adventure movies, and choose-your-own-adventure books, Matt one day in his twenties decided to give himself a “crash course in manhood,” abandoning all responsibilities, buying a motorcycle, and travelling the world as a sort of self-centred documentarian. Then, a couple years into his journey and no longer content with merely filming his travels, he up and decides to become an embedded journalist in Iraq and Afghanistan. When that’s no longer enough to satiate his need for an adrenaline rush, he takes the ultimate leap and becomes a freedom fighter in the Libyan revolution.
Filmmaker Marshall Curry (If a Tree Falls, Racing Dreams) doesn’t so much direct the film about Vandyke’s dangerous obsessions as he merely assembles Matt’s footage and conducts a few interviews to provide context. Vandyke certainly lives on the razor’s edge, and he can’t fully explain why his need to get himself into increasingly dangerous and potentially deadly situations keeps escalating. It might have something to do with his OCD, or there might be something else going on there.
But for all of the interest one might have for Vandyke as a personality, there’s something missing at the heart of Curry’s framing of Vandyke’s work. It’s almost too objective in its aims, coming across as bland and inoffensive when the things Vandyke is accomplishing are fascinating and groundbreaking. Every increasing turn during Vandyke’s time in Libya feels tossed off in the same fashion as a news magazine. It feels reductive and afraid to coax Matt into answering questions he never wants to tackle head on. The film says a lot about the human desire to affect change and the circumstances that could lead people to become revolutionaries, but it’s not saying anything about its subject as a human being, and that’s a big problem. (Andrew Parker)
Marshall Curry will participate in Skype Q&As following screenings of the film on November 21st and 22nd.
The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia is not only recognized for its preservation of great art, but also the preservation of itself. The stately museum, founded in 1764 by Empress Catherine the Great, survived the riot of Bolshevik revolutionaries –boldly depicted in Eisenstein’s 1928 October (some clips from it shown in this film) – and the Nazi invasion of Leningrad (St. Petersburg’s former name) in the early 1940s.
Where October celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Russian Revolution, documentarian Margy Kinmouth celebrates the 250th anniversary of the Hermitage. The result is what you might accept as serviceable, especially for viewers so enchanted by this great bastion of arts and culture that their imagination will stand in for this documentary’s lack of sweep and vitality. As this film lurched by, I summoned memories of specific scenes from Russian Ark, that 96-minute one-take cinematic feat that was shot in the Hermitage’s Winter Palace, and tried to point out the hallways where it was shot.
It is true: Kinmouth provides a sprawling panorama of the Hermitage’s endless rooms and corridors. There are interviews with the museum’s dignitaries, such as director Mikhail Piotrovsky who shows us a few of the museum’s some-3 million treasures. While those moments may have you leaning forward, too many others will have you writhing around anticipating the real trip – and never experiencing it. And yet we should: the film is divided in sequences of a little boy wandering the vast building’s interior, as if to suggest we should identify with his bright-eyed awe. But this is merely a visual device to give the documentary a pretence of form.
Ultimately, there’s nothing greatly “revealed”in Hermitage Revealed. Save for a few moments of keen insight, this documentary is basically honorary window dressing for the 250 year-old real deal. It would play well in the background at the anniversary gala, but there’s not much here to glue your eyes and fixate on like Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna Litti, which so many of the museum’s visitors can’t seem to take their eyes off of. (Parker Mott)
Also at The Bloor this week:
Keep On Keepin’ On continues from last week for several more screenings this week.
The Music on Film series continues on Tuesday, November 25th at 6:30pm with a screening of Albert and David Maysles’ VLADIMIR HOROWITZ: THE LAST ROMANTIC (preceded by the short film Two Hands: The Leon Fleisher Story). The screening will also include a post-screening Q&A with pianist Leon Fleisher, moderated by Dr. Peter Simon, CEO, The Royal Conservatory of Music.