Friday, 6 April 2012

Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011)

One of these documentaries for which many of us have been sharpening their teeth and ticking days off as DVD release date was coming closer. Although it premiered on Sundance Festival a year ago, not all folks from around the globe could have attended, so instead they were forced to sit on their asses impatiently! As a big fan of Corman I need to say it's value lays mainly in high rollers of Hollywood uttering words of praise for the man, who let them literally be... who's been often their lifeblood. You have to check out Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern or Martin Scorsese who finally confirm, what we've all known but very rarely got admitted loud – Corman's film school has been the main link between 60's exploitation cinema and 70's auteur fireworks being the ground of new artistic forms developed in family environment.

As far as Corman's career is concerned, Alex Stapleton's movie speaks of few facts I wasn't aware. Documentary builds at large upon the story comprehensively told by Corman himself in his great book How I Made Hundred Movies In Hollywood and Never Lost A Dime, which tells you everything you need to know, hence those ones, who've read the book, might find a history of his career (revealed once again) a bit boring. But let's not forget, that there is still a lot of people outside the fandom, who've never heard of Corman or they've just drifted once or twice toward these regions and never really bothered to grab any solid book about the exploitation pope! "Corman's World..." seems to serve this purpose just fine mixing a biographical side with New Horizons office footage and very inspiring interviews with mentioned above and many others like David Carradine, Ron Howard, Joe Dante, Allan Arkush, Polly Platt, Peter Bogdanovich, Robert De Niro, Peter Fonda and many more. This list is very impressive itself!

On technical side it's a good job – maybe not ravishing, but all right – and it ticks all the boxes of modern documentary. Posters, trailers and press clipppings are being mixed with cinematic part and laid in simple manner, while narration heads toward tension build-up and eventually brings a climax. The movie seems longer than it really is, but that's due to compact construction. Corman's professional and private life in a pill was definitely a challenge, that's why screen time needed to be sped up multiple times, which reasonably trimmed his legendary 380 productions to 50 essential ones in a flash. Director also opted for leaving off Filipino chapter as that's been nicely exposed in another recent documentary - "Machete Maidens" (2010). Apart of that, we get basic treatment, from Corman's mythical schlock entries like "The Monster From the Ocean Floor" and "The Fast and the Furious", through unforgettable Poe flicks like "House Of Usher" or "Tomb Of Ligeia" (favourite Poe movie of Martin Scorsese) and then "The Terror", "The Wild Angels", "The Trip", and finally to New World Pictures period, when Corman made a fortune on such exploitation classics like "Big Doll House", "Grand Theft Auto", "White Line Fever" or "Death Race 2000" (to name only few).

But it wasn't exactly simplest task to do – covering a story of the guy, who has had three production/distribution companies, discovered 50% of Hollywood's biggest names, totally revolutionized production side of filmmaking, invented a new way of budgeting it, created dozen of exploitation sub-genres from a scratch giving a root to the modern action movie, improved and mastered the art of entertainment marketing (including these famous sticky trailers), took over distribution of European art films on US market in the 70's with profits and on the top directed more than 300 movies himself! Not all of these achievements have been discussed in "Corman's World...", but the most important were licked with clear sense of understanding, many to the credit of former Corman's collaborators and workers.

Saying that we need to stress once again, that Total Documentary on any topic is virtually impossible to score – the more extensive the subject, the more you need to shave it off as pedantic exploration of every single pocket carries a danger of down-playing or even losing the storyline completely. Grabbing all these threads together is hard enough and still it rarely happens on the screen! Making of an excellent documentary is very difficult as it needs a perfect insight! Besides, I'm deeply convinced, that no documentary can match a biography book as the latter one doesn't have time limitations and as a verbal medium cuts the distance to the analytical, left side of your brain. A film is a magic powder and it either turns you on or not – connection is more crucial than fishing it all out!

However, "Corman's World..." does one thing nicely. It creates a sense of slight disappointment in viewer's consciousness by picking the bits of actors talk as far as Corman's critical acclaim is concerned. Above all histories of life with their tutor, they spontaneously come up with one justified question, why he never got Lifetime Achievement Academy Award? And then it goes, smoke disperses while director shows Roger Corman tying his bow tie and heading to the L.A. ceremony, where Quentin Tarantino thanks him in the name of fans from around the world for making such a lot of great movies. He finally gets his official recognition, which he maybe didn't give a shit about, but it instantly cements his life-of-film-art status lifting him up from an underground phenomenon to acknowledged filmmaker of undeniable prestige. The thing is, he never chased for awards as money from his operations was smoothly flowing in, but in the end there are not many guys in this business with similar film score and such a massive worldwide cult. Along the line, this documentary should be treated as a cherry on the top!

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