Independent Minds

When she unzips his fly, CUT!The latest trio of reviews focus on independent-minded filmmakers and personalities, and we begin with Olivier Smolders, an experimental writer/director from Belgium who recently made the leap from shorts to feature-length movies with Nuit Noire / Black Night (2004).

Fans of that film will definitely want to check out Cult Epics' other Smolders release, Spiritual Exercises (2007), a 10-film compilation that showcases Smolders' sometimes shocking mix of prose and imagery.

From Westlake Entertainment comes a pair of documentaries that may have fallen under the radar of genre fans.

The most intriguing of the set is The Outsider, Nicholas Jarecki’s all-access doc of writer/director James Toback, shot during the production of When Will I Be Loved (2004), which starred Neve Campbell and her birthday suit (plus some other people, like Mike Tyson).

Toback is very open about his past, his addictions, and his fixations, and he’s kind of the refined Abel Ferrara with a university background; both men have no qualms about showing some raunch, but Toback’s films aren’t nearly as emotionally indulgent, and they’re less hampered by vague if not incoherent plotting. (Toback can also complete his sentences, which isn't the case with Ferrara.)

Jarecki’s doc is larded with some serious names, including veteran screenwriter Robert Towne, filmmaker Woody Allen, critic Roger Ebert, and author Norman Mailer. It’s probably one of the best filmmaker portraits out there, and worth hunting down, now that Toback's own documentary of Mike Tyson premiered at Cannes.

Note: the DVD sleeve makes no mention of any extras, but The Outsider is loaded with a superb pair of commentaries tracks by Jarecki and Toback, plus 90 mins. of deleted footage.

Running with Arnold is a bit of a head-scratcher because it had the potential to be an incisive chronicle of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rise and annointment as Governor of California, but it’s less than half of that. Director Dan Cox fumbles through a clumsy intro before the film clicks, and although very flawed, for international audiences, it shows what happened in California after the celebratory confetti was cleared from Schwarzenegger’s victory hall.

Is Arnie a Republican puppet? Does he have an ounce of original policy in his brain? Is his recent pro-green stance an effort to reclaim the approval of his constituency after a massive tumble in the polls?

None of these three questions are answered, but one does get a sense he’s learned a few pointers from his first year of on the job training; whether he makes good before his term is up is the big question.

Coming next: two lighthearted comedy-dramas, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont from Westlake Entertainment, and The Rocket Post from Lionsgate (U.K.). Note: neither film contains an ounce of bloodshed.

And imminent: Anchor Bay’s new Dario Argento Collection. Note: all films contain oodles of bloodshed and occasional brain goo.


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