Friday, November 11, 2011

Documentary Review: The Bridge

"The Bridge"

Fascinated at the thought that something so brutal and distgusting could only be Rated R, I would have thought NC-17 would have barely sufficed. Maybe because it’s the innocence in someone’s shape as they leap and how their body language describes their surety, or their hesitation. Maybe because it’s 4200 feet all the way down from a beautiful bridge we admire, or maybe it’s because we’ve all despaired and thought of such things, but never took it to the next level. That’s their moment and we’re exploiting the fact that they’re over it, and this place. I would say that someone could easily be reaching out by doing it in such a public space but the access to a place so high, so magnetic, and that landing in water just seems more pleasant than rocks at the bottom of a cliff or pavement at the bottom of a building, I suppose it makes more sense. The walk that these people take is like that of the plank on a ship where the crew wants their passenger to swim with the fishes. None of them are racing out to the middle of the bridge and just hurdling the shoulder-high fence to get it over with. They pace themselves, they wonder about what this life has brought them and why. One woman gets arrested three times as she stands so long at the precipice. It doesn’t help her cause that she wears the same style hat each time but in different colors because someone definitely calls the cops each time she’s there (we are left to wonder if it’s the cameraman the last two times). The main character in this work of panoramic discovery is Gene. He’s the exact person you think would jump off a bridge if you were walking by him that day. Long ratty black hair that whips around in the wind so uncontrollably that it slaps him silly. He has a tight leather black jacket and a defeated rocker look about him. His friends all say he talked about killing himself when you would ask a simple question like “what would you like for breakfast?” “To die” would be a typical answer. Gene is interesting because he’s tall, and his pale skin against his all black heavy metal guitarist ensemble looks angelic, or gothic. If the dialogue didn’t constantly lead up to his death, we might’ve thought he could walk away, but we did not want him too. By the end of this movie all you want to do is see people jump. I found myself concentrating so hard to see splashes in the water when they would show us the time lapse photography, and was let down when I didn’t see one. There’s something about seeing death and the disbelief that you’re watching it happen. It’s an experience unlike typical movies and TV, which are make believe and therefore it’s easy to shrug it off when someone gets killed, no matter how gory. Oddly enough, after the second jumper, it was easy to watch. Their trajectory, if they lept at the highest point, if they stepped over the ledge onto another ledge to await their decision, you start taking little notes to guess how serious they really were and you get a bit angry when they don’t do it, or are saved by a passerby. Yes, your heart races when you see them put their little hand onto that massive cable wire to lift themselves up onto the ledge. Their insignificance in size, space and time just drifts with the whipping clouds passing below them and the bridge. Since you as the viewer already know that what you’re watching is in the past, you’re willing to let happen what is completely out of your control, and that’s whether they live, or die. It’s probably the purest documentary out there because there’s no acting, no person signing a waiver letting a cameraman in their house to film what is absolutely the most intimate moment. You might think it’s also the most selfish documentary ever made, for the exposure of tainted minds and characters that could have somehow been helped and pulled back. I, however, do not agree with that sentiment. All these people wanted was to be noticed. To stand as high in front of the world as they could, screaming fuck you to the city that surrounded them and the sea below. Picking daylight as their perfect time to leap when we all know that the night is the worst and most feared for its loneliness. Because of their displays they are now known and remembered by me, and the thousands of others who have seen this. In light of popular yet sick ways to make a statement these days, they could have self-immolated in some tiny city in the hopes of spurning an Arab Spring. Would they have had any more purpose, or gusto then a guy pouring gasoline on himself?

Gene is the last in The Bridge to go, and that’s because he had the most dramatic fall and the best film footage from takeoff to landing. Instead of ruining with words what really is something terrifyingly quick but undeniably unforgettable, please take a look for yourself. And if not, there’ll be around 25 more people that will do it this year, and the next, and the year after that…after all, we’re a growing population. As sick as it sounds, I don’t look forward to a follow-up of The Bridge, but if there is one that comes out, I am bound to watch it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Documentary Review: Buck

I used to date this girl that worked for Jaguar. She would be asked to attend these equestrian competitions, where Jaguar was a sponsor, and stand by the cars as a representative. She knew nothing about luxury cars but she looked amazing standing next to one.

The people who came to these events were the Bloomberg’s of the world, and Bloomberg. On display, besides for cars, were top bred horses jumping, strutting, walking shoe over shoe to the left, then to the right, back and then forward. Listening not so much to commands, they would trot along, grand in cadence and form, all by the movements of their rider’s body. I never knew this type of thing existed. You see horses jumping on TV, knocking over the bars as they leap too short over the Mercedes Benz rose fence, and you wonder if it hurts their legs to land so hard. You also assume some person perched atop these pristine yet innocent beasts is wealthy and ultimately proving their status by donning such a phallic black velvet helmet. Who knew these animals had heart, or in this case, a mind of their own to not want to be tamed and flaunted and on display. The documentary, “Buck” where our character Buck Brannaman is the horse whisperer of sorts, looks at first glance like some Disney happy-go-lucky-fest where horses share eyes and ears with a soothing-psychic cowboy. By the way, Buck is the real reason behind Robert Redford’s “The Horse Whisperer”. In the documentary however, it’s not until the brutal beatings and child exploitation of our manly Buck which he reveals to us about his childhood, do we realize this ain’t no dog and pony show. His pop would giddily whip his two young boys for any little mistake they might’ve made in the family rope-trick and talent show that they traveled around and performed for local towns. Once or twice, they made it on TV. When you’re hiding in your doghouse in 20-degree weather with snow on the ground, nuzzled up next to Fido for warmth because it’s a better option then being inside during one of dad’s dickhead binges, you know you’ve got no options.

To our eager expectation, we come to enjoy watching the stern demeanor and measured movements of Buck. When he’s taming a wild mare in the ring, we're confused at first because he takes what’s alien to us, and earns its trust, and makes it look so easy. Even if you know nothing about horses, you can tell by the astonished reactions in his seminars as he takes anyone’s horse that they bring from home where they’d been struggling for years to get through to the animal, he goes and “breaks it” in minutes. Give him a half hour and he’s saddling what no one could have thought was even able to ride. A turning point, or a parallel is drawn to our own lives in the movie when a troubled woman brings one of her “kids”, as she described him, to see Buck and she complains of the attacks and bones she’s shattered trying to raise this horse. She fears for her own life but also can’t come to grips with having to put the horse down since she saved the horse from near death during birth when it was starved for oxygen far too long before coming around. Sitting there watching, I couldn’t wait for Buck to win this challenge….to show this woman that nothing is out of his reach, after all, these are horses which heavily rely on humans to bring them their food, to wash and bathe them when they’re mucked up. This was the David meets Goliath moment, and we’re ready for David to fucking win.

There was something about the craze in the horse’s eyes that got you thinking. Burnt red against it’s ivory blond hair, and I mean bloodshot, haven’t slept in months, don’t talk to me, where’s my coffee, oops I burst a vessel manic fucking red. Buck’s assistant is next to the pen tying off a boot or wiping down a saddle, I don’t even remember because the guy never talked, but right then, the horse out of the side of the camera like a fish jumping from a pond, whamm! The horse swung its head down, mouth open, teeth born to chomp, and like wood clucking hollow wood, the horse shucked a chunk out of this poor guy’s head as onlookers screamed. We went from G-Rated Disney to blood gushing PG-13 in a millisecond. At first, Buck’s eyes turned to scorn for the woman for bringing the horse to the seminar, for raising the damned thing, but truly, it was his fault for attempting it. All of us react first instead of sitting down and mulling it over, and eventually, he did sit down and have a chat with the lady.

The film drew a fantastic juxtaposition on life, our own struggle with our conscience. This was a mother and her child, except that her child was mentally disabled. In our world you can’t solve the existence of a disabled human being with a lethal injection…. well, some might argue that. As the story always unfolds, it comes down to the fact that no matter what the animal is, human or horse, you could wash it, wax it, buff it and stand it on a pedestal to be viewed and admired, hell, it might look really good, but when you ask it a question, and try to gain some understanding beyond the physical, you’re bound to get an answer. It’s what you learn from that answer and how you approach a similar situation in the future that’s the truest test of your ability to do better. Buck still seems to be getting it, and getting better at getting it, even still.