Giuseppe Makes a Movie Dir. Adam Rifkin

[Cinelicious Pics; 2014]

Styles: documentary, films about film
Others: American Movie, Gummo, American Juggalo

Two things:

1) The act of creation is what you make of it, and

2) rules are for squares.

It seems obvious, right? Yet when Henry Rollins interviewed Wolf Eyes for the LA Weekly a few years ago, he spent a good chunk of the article swooning over that crew’s willfully scattershot mode of performance and production as if they had invented fun (I wrote an article like that once, too, but I was also 20 and had never been the singer for Black Flag):

We compared and contrasted our differences in method of creation. I come from a very basic rock approach. You go to the practice room, start arguing with your bandmates and, thus, the creative process starts. Weeks and sometimes months of work renders 10 to 15 songs that you will eventually record, release, shamelessly promote and then play every night for a year, all over the world. It’s all so very predictable.

No shit, Henry. That’s because you’re entrenched in a conservative system designed for maximum yield by a greedy, capitalistic record business. From a methodical standpoint, of course it’s predictable and boring. It’s a business plan, not a rollercoaster.

The film world, obviously, has a parallel setup, replete with its own set standards and practices from which deviation is anathema, even in independent film. In this regard, California-based trailer park auteur Giuseppe Andrews, a former child star most known for his roles in Independence Day, American History X, and Detroit Rock City, could be said to be the noise music of film. He is prolific and sloppy, willfully disinterested in continuity or any conventional notions of craft; he makes his films for $1000 or less, much of which is spent on malt liquor and cheap wigs for the destitute misfits who make up his repertory company (names include “Vietnam Ron” and “Sir Bigfoot George”). With Giuseppe Makes a Movie, director Adam Rifkin (who previously directed Andrews in Detroit Rock City) documents the two-day filming schedule of Andrews’s film Garbanzo Gas, offering an insight into his bizarre, unabashedly amateurish creative process. While not always pleasant to watch, it’s an admittedly fascinating portrait: for better or worse, Andrews is the real deal, a combination of what Harmony Korine probably likes to think he is and how some people like to perceive John Waters.

That name-dropping, though, might insinuate something more than what you get with Andrews’s films. If he is the noise music of film in execution, his humor and aesthetic are closer to Primus: sophomoric, sexually stunted, and needlessly vulgar (and this is coming from someone who counts Waters and the George Kuchar among his favorite filmmakers). His dialogue is made up of “poetic” litanies of swears and euphemisms (“People might even call it pornographic and shit, but I don’t see it like that at all… it’s having fun with words”), and his plots could have been cribbed from stoned conversations at a Gathering of the Juggalos.

That said, and despite the fact that he corrals substance-addled homeless people and down-and-out strippers to star in his films, I wouldn’t say Andrews (and Giuseppe Makes a Movie by extension) is exploitative. He spent even his most successful years in either a trailer park or a van with his “producer” father; he’s hardly an intruder in the world he documents. His cast and crew are as dedicated as he is, starring in these films for double-digit “salaries” (and not just because they desperately need the money). The most touching scene in Giuseppe Makes a Movie takes place when Andrews goes to visit his frequent cast member Tiffany, who’s just lost her job at a topless bar. She begins to tear up when discussing how Andrews is “like family,” and she seems to speak for all the oddballs in his orbit.

While I appreciate his slipshod M.O. and bargain basement aesthetic, I’m pretty sure that Giuseppe Makes a Movie has not made me an Andrews convert. Even so, Rifkin doesn’t flinch or judge as he documents Andrews gumming up the works with gleeful abandon, and for that alone it’s a valuable document.

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