Every weekday and Saturday throughout Hot Docs, Torontoist is looking at a handful of festival offerings, recommending the worthwhile and de-recommending the not-so-worthwhile.
Mugging for the camera in his own film about mugging for the camera. Adrian Grenier in Adrian Grenier’s Teenage Paparazzo.
Jeepers! Has it really been a whole week since Hot Docs 2010 kicked off? Time flies when you spend every free hour watching and writing about documentaries! What’s on today? Glad you asked! This Friday at Hot Docs: Teenage Paparazzo, a film by Entourage pretty boy Adrian Grenier about a pint-sized red-carpet shutterbug; Shadow Play: The Making of Anton Corbijn, a profile of (you guessed it) Dutch photographer and filmmaker Anton Corbijn; and Dish: Women, Waitressing & the Art of Service, in which waitresses from around the globe let you know how annoying it is when you ask for substitutions on your tuna melt. Torontoist’s Kasandra Bracken and Suzannah Showler hip you to all three, right after the jump.
TORONTOIST’S RECOMMENDED PICKS GET A
Teenage PaparazzoDirected by Adrian Grenier. USA. 94 minutes.
Except for the absence of star director Adrian Grenier (a.k.a. Vincent Chase, star of HBO’s Entourage), last night’s Canadian premiere of Teenage Paparazzo felt less Hot Docs, more TIFF. One of the few films with a big-name backer, and a filmmaker known widely to the public, the film’s marketing is based on exploiting the fame and fan-following of Grenier—and isn’t it ironic, when the film is about, well, just that.
Grenier, a walking paparazzi magnet in his own right (adding another level of irony in that the photogs only follow him because he plays the role of a famous, well-paparazzi’d celeb on TV) follows Austin Visschedyk, thirteen years old at the start of filming, as he frantically skateboards, scooters, and bikes from his West Hollywood home to shoot the stars, sometimes forsaking his bedtime. A cool and collected Justin Bieber doppelganger with braces, Visschedyk’s got “pap” friends with whom he stakes out, insider friends who keep his cell buzzing with tip-offs, and an advantage over the rest of the scrum shooters with his abundant energy, compact size, and of course, babyface. Grenier and crew follow his 24/7 on-call job (Visschedyk, like many Hollywood kids, is homeschooled), at times even creating new work for the young’un when hanging out with pals like Paris Hilton.
The first thing that stands out about Teenage Paparazzo is its obvious production pricetag. Unlike a lot of of the typical Hot Docs fare, Paparazzo is backed by a bigshot company (HBO), and a Hollywood “in” (Grenier) and it shows—shiny graphics and editing sometimes make the film feel like more fancified VH1 special than documentary.
Sparkliness aside, it’s a thoughtful, complex, and self-aware take (at least, for a celebrity, right?) on the tabloid world of gossip and omnipresent cameras. Visschedyk’s obsession is well portrayed, as the cameras stay up with him till all hours of the night while he neglects his homework to ogle pap shots, or hop cabs and catch the celebs (some of whom he insists—like he’s talking about a classmate—are “fucked up on coke,” or out boozing every night, something he promises never to do). The film changes pace when Visschedyk admits his own aspiration to become a celebrity, and just as quickly as Grenier begins to dissect the desire, he is able to recognize the problem at hand—by following Visschedyk around and documenting his every move, Grenier encourages the very notion he is trying to bring into question (which is why writing about this film seems even more meta). Visschedyk’s future now becomes the central focus of the film, and it’s a decision Grenier, while giving him guidance and insight into his own celebrity life, ultimately leaves to the one who will lead it.
Screens Saturday, May 8 at 9 p.m. at the Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor Street West) as part of the Special Presentations Series.
You’d be grumpy too if you spent all day making Dave Gahan look fabulous. Anton Corbijn in Shadow Play.
Shadow Play: The Making of Anton CorbijnDirected by Josh Whiteman. Australia. 90 minutes.
The opening sequence of Shadow Play offers a montage of recognizable (though not always immediately place-able) musicians, actors, magazine editors, and artists each describing the power expressed in the work of photographer Anton Corbijn. By the end of this series of hyperbolic descriptions of Corbijn’s process and its effects, our interest in this magical-sounding artist has been sufficiently piqued. This is the appeal of a portrait of the artist as a genius: we sense that there is something important and complicated at the heart of the story to be unpacked, and we anticipate the reward of this revelation.
Raised against the stark background of a Dutch island village under the watch of a strict minister father, Corbijn began taking photographs of bands in Holland in the mid-’70s. He eventually moved to England to play the role of a kind of photographer-in-residence to the British post-punk scene, his star rising along with the bands whose iconic images he helped create. Corbijn’s relationships with many of the musicians he shoots (notable names focused on in the film include U2, Joy Division, and Nirvana) are long and storied, spanning decades and crossing media as Corbijn delved into directing music videos.
Shadow Play intersperses interviews with Corbijn and his peers in a loose timeline of the artist’s career with scenes from the man himself at work his first feature film, Control, a biopic of Joy Division’s frontman Ian Curtis. As Shadow Play rolls on, the anticipation of the in-depth character revelation suggested in the opening montage is never fully realized. While Corbijn’s work is certainly interesting, the film struggles to find a narrative epicentre, though it flirts with several: envisioning Corbijn as an ironic, subversive anti-cog in the star-maker machinery; prodding or the ego hidden behind the lens; or setting up Corbijn as a son searching for the answer to his daddy issues, etc. This scattered approach renders Corbijn’s character opaque. In the end, his work is engrossing enough to sustain a documentary that is interesting, though not particularly stimulating.
Screens Friday, May 7 at 9:15 p.m. and Sunday, May 9 at 1 p.m. at the Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor Street West) as part of the Next series.
Come for the onion rings, stay for the gauche decor and patent sexism! Still from Dish.
Dish: Women, Waitressing & the Art of ServiceDirected by Maya Gallus. Canada. 70 minutes.
Dish, the eighth film from a director whose list of credits looks more like a sociology professor’s course catalogue than a filmography, is a quasi-feminist take on the world of diners, maitre d’s, and double-Ds. Throughout the GTA, Montreal, Tokyo, and of course, Paris, Dish presents the restaurant experience from the point of view of the female server. It’s got your typical truck stop diner, and your fancy-schmancy French bistros, but the film’s strength lies in showcasing the strange—a series of pubs employing a span of “sexy waitresses” (the range is like that of a strip poker game—with every restaurant, another piece of clothing seems to come off ), and a few Japanese houses’ restos where the staff functions more as servant than server, greeting customers with a bow and sentiments such as “welcome home, master.”
What the film boasts in variety, it lacks in originality, or any real message. It’s enough to spend an hour listening to women tiredly bitch about serving—much of the documentary is centred on servers making pleas to the audience: “Don’t ask for a glass of water, and then another one for your friend when we come back with the first”; “Don’t ask for a million modifications”; “Do not ever try and pick up our digits”; and so on. But what’s most troublesome is that the main complaint of the women in this doc—clearly a film from the female perspective, about equal rights and the unfair perception of “lowly female barmaids”—is about other women; that the women are always the hardest to please, the nagging ones with all of the special requests (of course, that’s probably because women need no mayo, no breading on the chicken, and dressing on the side to fit the cultural expectation of the model-slim female, but we digress).
We’ve all got our own jobs to complain about. (To wit, this year’s Hot Docs lineup features a film dedicated to just that.) So why waste seventy minutes listening to the people who are supposed to serve you harping about how much they hate doing it and how it’s just for the tips anyways? We’ll save you the time—when you’re at a restaurant, if you don’t already do so, dish out some common courtesy.
Screens Saturday, May 8 at 1:30 p.m., at The Royal Cinema (608 College Street), and Sunday May 9 at 6:30 p.m., at the Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor Street West) as part of the World Showcase series.
All stills courtesy of Hot Docs.