By Mark Borchardt on 2nd July 2014
“Giuseppe Makes a Movie” is one of those rare, down-home gems of a documentary that allows one to experience a preternaturally impassioned soul in his far-out, no-holds barred, milieu. The centrifugal power, the galvanizing dynamic that the documenting camera lays frames on is one Giuseppe Andrews, a singular force of jet propulsion, passionately wielding a movie camera as enthusiastically as normal people do a vacation ticket to Cancun. But unlike ordinary people, Giuseppe doesn’t have to escape his circumstances, because he is nothing but his circumstances
This film showcases one of the bright-light personas in this universe of chance; a vicious interpreter of the surreal, a cinematic Hieronymus Bosch where the absurd and abstract amalgamate into an unyielding whole of imaginative debauchery. Well, Andrews may not see it that way – for it could be the everyday in his own wonderful universe.
Directed by Adam Rifkin and sharing producing duties with Mike Plante, this is assuredly the kind of film that you don‘t want to end; at least I didn‘t. I was immersed in its world and its determined energy and being the great documentary that this is, one doesn’t have the wearisome template of a contrived three act structure to slog through; this is cinematic existentialism at its best.
We’re hot on the trail of Andrew’s latest opus “Garbanzo Gas” and he’s determined to make this one at lightning speed. And this compelling doc gets to the heart of the matter and the quirky but loyal community Giuseppe surrounds himself with to get the job done: his films – his way. But these films are certainly not your everyday affairs and definitely not big-budget blockbusters. There is a budget but instead of checks being handed out, in many cases bottles of beer are direct deposited to the actors-at-large. He can get these distinctive masterpieces in the can for a grand or less.
Continuity understandably goes out the window, and rightfully so Andrews makes clear, for the viewer should be tuned into the vibe, the story of the film and not caught up in the technical details. We come to understand that this philosophy is a necessary one as he cranks out a production in a few days, even donning wind resistant tights to cut through the air and make every minute count.
These are down and dirty movies – literally. And some may be shocked by the content. But that can be a good thing, because, as we all know, life isn’t just peaches and cream. Andrews makes sure we get that point with far-ranging takes on the absurd, reflections of his infinite imaginings into the extreme defying conventional parameters of taste (i.e. bizarre diatribes and costuming, a naked senior citizen having sex with a ghost, etc.) These films are not pornographic by any means, rather poetic musings with a lot of naughty language.
We encounter the colorful denizens that populate Andrew’s cinematic underworld such as “Vietnam Ron,” “Sir Big Foot George” and “Spit” (grabbed off the street for twenty bucks when another venerated actor fails to show). It’s a wondrous and uncanny alchemy of family and friends, and it turns out that Andrew’s producer (read financier) is none other than his father, Ed, (Big Ed) who in turn was none other than a guitarist for the Bee-Gees during their heyday. Ed also serves as driver, craft service and more, an all-around go-to guy. It’s an amicable business relationship and it works well, along of course with some minor friction along the way, which is to be expected in such high intensity run-and-gun circumstances. His father’s been with him all along and Giuseppe’s prodigious output in a tight seven year filmmaking period include: “Trailer Town,” “Grandpa,” “Oakie Dokie” and “Touch Me In the Morning.” Yes – Andrews can crank out a feature film in literally three, even two days – take that Roger Corman! (“Garbanzo Gas” comes in at a record one and a half days!)
But this story has an odd twist because Andrews doesn’t just come out of nowhere; film-wise, that is. He actually was a child actor in such blockbusters as “Independence Day,” “Never Been Kissed” and was featured in the cult classic “Detroit Rock City.” But the Hollywood system rubbed him the wrong way and he went back to the straightest, cleanest connection he could: himself. Blue Chip sensibilities were laid to waste but we got blessed with one hell of a self-invented auteur instead. And the cinematic world is a damn better place because of that.
This documentary is one of those films that transcends the form itself, content trumping context, the roller coaster is off and away, and we’re breathlessly taken along for the ride, allowing one into the lives and circumstances of others in a very raw, matter-of-fact way: too close for comfort for some and a delightful revelation to others. It definitely joins the pantheon of documented dare-doers cranking out low to no-budget flicks in such ‘making ofs’ like “Demon Lover Diary,” “Overnight” and “American Movie.”
Andrews is an idiosyncratic genius whose determined spirit I have ultimate admiration for. Thanks to almighty powerhouses like him, an iconic forge of individualism continues to be wrought providing us with compelling, visionary notes from the cinematic underground. I walked away from this film deeply encouraged; not just in the possibilities of home-grown, throw-down cinema but most importantly by the ecstatic vision and gut-instinct of a true life-force, unstoppable in his quest for his own truth and community. And “Giuseppe Makes a Movie” does what a good film should: invite us into its inspired world and inspire us in our own; for Andrews proves that anything, almost anything, is truly possible.
As an interesting footnote: I shared some scenes with Giuseppe in “Cabin Fever 2.” It was enthusiastically predicted how great we’d get along, how much we’d have in common, etc. So, there we sat in the van for our scene and as much as I can recall, we didn’t exchange one goddamn word. There you have it. God bless America.