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Hot Docs 2009: Tyson

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Today’s Picks:
1:30 p.m. – Orgasm Inc. (Isabel Bader, pictured above)
1:30 p.m. – The Red Chapel (Cumberland 3)
4:45 p.m. – Ascension (ROM) – 1.5/5
7:15 p.m. – 69 (Innis Town Hall)
9:15 p.m. – The Yes Men Fix The World (Cumberland 3)
9:15 p.m. – Tyson (Isabel Bader) – 3.5/5
11:59 p.m. – Graphic Sexual Horror (Bloor)
After the jump, a review for today’s screening of Tyson.


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Tyson (James Toback)
BY JONATHAN GOLDSBIE
Tyson delivers what it promises—a portrait of Mike Tyson, from his own perspective, told in his own words—but is considerably less exciting than its own trailer. Which is not to say that James Toback’s film isn’t insightful, because it is; Tyson has had a lot of time to think about what’s gone right and what’s gone wrong in his life, sometimes taking personal responsibility, sometimes blaming others (he still very much resents Desiree Washington, whom he was convicted of raping in 1991). As a figure, he has always both reified and confounded our concept of a larger-than-life celebrity—a boxer who became too full of himself and succumbed to temptation, but also a force of nature whose physical presence and seeming lack of self-awareness allowed him to cut a unique career path on both the way up and the way down. The intimacy of the film’s construction, with recurring closeups of the ex-boxer’s face as he addresses the camera, is designed to smash this and reduce him to a mere mortal; this approach, in itself, is subversive, but it would take a much longer documentary or mini-series to elicit any real depth about particular incidents in his life. Tyson the film is primarily a character study, and a good one, but it only intermittently succeeds as biography or history. For that, at least, you would need to speak to King Hippo. 3.5/5

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