Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Larry Wessel's All Access Pass
Documentarian Larry Wessel does not deny you access. He chooses a subject, fucks it, feels it, fondles it, finds its G-spot, X-rays it mid-coitus, then brings it to a simultaneous orgasm of Truth with the audience.
In Iconoclast (2010), his soon-to-be-finished documentary on Boyd Rice, a fellow who's been called everything under the sun from Prophet to Nazi to Racist Cunt to Stand-Up Guy, Wessel (whose production company is Wesselmania) uses his All Access Pass to birth a portrait of Rice that is fascinating and invigorating.
Quite clearly, the only person out there who knows Rice is Rice himself, and the doco doesn't pretend otherwise. Like all smart people with an evolving consciousness, Rice is complex, brilliant, musically gifted, provocative, and silly. The film states this, but it isn't so arrogant as to settle for absolute judgments.
Between '91 and '93, Wessel shot in the bloody bull rings of Tijuana and assembled the extraordinary Taurobolium, a confronting, uncompromising look at the religious fervor of bullfighting. The shedding of blood is never far from the worship of God and god-like entities, so to witness so much horrific bloodshed in these temples of war is to witness the embracing of primal drives.
After the fighting has faded, a group of women surround a matador (in Latin, it means 'one who subdues or kills') with autograph books. One young woman (a attractive young Latin) appears almost unable to make eye contact with the matador. As she waits her turn, she steals glances at him, but she seems to fear that her deep desire to be penetrated by him will be exposed. Wessel wisely zooms closer to this woman, isolating her from the others, and, in the process, communicates the God-like status of the sport's heroes . To fuck a god is the ultimate communion, is it not?
The fighting scenes are stark and gory. Bulls are stabbed, cut, speared and driven (by the matador) to excruciating levels of anxiety. Several sequences involving confrontations with matadors on horses are shockingly brutal, and it is a curious experience to listen to the cheering coming from the stands in these moments of defeat, surrender, and victory.
Wessel's way is not to comment, editorialize, or provide the predictable opposing view. His documentaries give us access to a culture, a way of life, and modes of thought that are rarely given a decent hearing because, lo and behold, it takes intelligence to listen; we already know the opposing view; we don't need to hear it again and again; it already dominates and stinks the place out.
When a defeated bull is carried from the stadium and immediately prepared for the dinner plate, a strange sense of natural process occurs. And that's the magic of the filmmaker at work.
Wessel's approach to unearthing Truth is direct and unafraid. In Sex, Death, and the Hollywood Mystique ('99), stalwarts of an industry far crueler than any bull ring spill ugly truths and torch prevailing lies about the industry. Forry Ackerman takes us on a tour of his 'Ackermansion' (a priceless museum of silver screen ephemera) that, in retrospect, feels terribly sad because, prior to Forry's death, not a single Hollywood bigshot (and so-called friend of the man) contributed one penny to the preservation of the Ackermonster's priceless legacy.
Curtis Harrington, arguably one of the industry's greatest practitioners, ruminates on yesteryear from his humble Hollywood Hills tomb, and hints at the the forces that contributed to his contemporary irrelevancy. Author John Gilmore, a scribe and actor who knows where many of the corpses are buried, scratches scabs to remember his friendship with James Dean and the dubious hiring practices of the Hollywood studios.
Wessel's ability to get subjects to spread and smile results in works that are deceptively simple in structure, technically basic, but searing in their intensity and Truth.
He's a One-Man Cultural Coroner.