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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Giuseppe Makes a Movie (Blu-ray)
Giuseppe Makes a Movie (Blu-ray)
Other // Unrated // June 9, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Tyler Foster | posted June 29, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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Giuseppe Andrews and Adam Rifkin first met when Andrews auditioned for Rifkin's film Detroit Rock City. Andrews, whose first credited appearance is a film from 1989, has had a number of small but memorable roles in movies such as Independence Day and Cabin Fever, while Rifkin is responsible for a few cult classics, such as The Dark Backward and as a screenwriter on movies like Small Soldiers. After Rifkin hired Andrews for City, they became friends, and worked together again on Look, a movie shot entirely from the perspective of surveillance cameras, and the subsequent Showtime TV adaptation. It seems like a fairly run-of-the-mill friendship between director and actor, both of whom have an off-kilter comedic sensibility, but there was something more going on beneath the surface.

Giuseppe Makes a Movie was filmed somewhere between Detroit Rock City and Look, then sat in Adam Rifkin's closet for over ten years while Rifkin was busy working on other projects. It was finally rescued thanks to Mike Plante, another person with a strong affection for Andrews' specific perspective on the world, who began the editing process sometime in the mid-2000s and ultimately got the footage into the hands of David Nordstrom, an editor who fashioned it into a finished film. Shot entirely by Rifkin himself on a handheld digital video camera, it documents the production of Garbanzo Gas, Andrews' 30th film, all of which were made with the help of his friend and father figure Ed, a former member of the Bee Gees' touring company, and a community of oddballs and misfits, many of them homeless, who Andrews has befriended and turned into a repertory company.

In his career as a character actor, Andrews' screen presence was always memorably unusual, hovering somewhere between "scuzzy sleazeball" and "loveable dork" -- too mischievous to seem innocent, too good-natured to be up to anything awful. Movie confirms that these qualities come from Andrews himself, giving us the full picture of a humble yet driven young man who is earnestly excited about talking to Rifkin about his movies and his life. Ed, whose office consists of a Rubbermaid trunk on the back of his trailer, pulls out tapes of some of Andrews' old films and plays them on their tiny TV, in which old men mumble about masturbation and getting laid while Andrews talks about being influenced by Rainier Werner Fassbinder and Luis Bunuel. To describe it might make it seem like Rifkin is making fun of Andrews, but there's irony in the documentary: Rifkin is as earnest about catching Andrews' unique energy on film as Andrews is passionate. On this film, Andrews' goal is to shoot the film in two days, which he believes would be a record (it'd match the two-day production of Roger Corman's Little Shop of Horrors), and so he begins rounding up his cast and crew for production.

Andrews' friends are an incredible bunch of people. There's Tiffany, an attractive young woman who just quit her job at a club and who wants to be a singer. She'll be a young woman who picks up a guy for a one-night stand and ends up strangled to death with a towel ("I die again!" she laughs when Andrews tells her). There's Vietnam Ron, a scraggly old man with sunken eyes who recounts being dragged 30 feet under a car and being dead for two minutes, whose role in the film is to play a cow given an all-expenses paid trip to a hotel prior to his slaughtering. His cow suit was made by Mary, Andrews' girlfriend, whose job on the films is usually costuming Ron, with the occasional cameo appearance. There's Miles Dougal, one of the production's only professional actors, who can't stop grinning with a mix of delight and embarrassment throughout the shoot, as he discusses Andrews and being sucked into his world. And there's Tyree, an old man whose role in the film is to get a hotel room where he can have sex with his orthopedic shoe, who remains in good spirits and seems quite pleasant despite soiling his pants twice during the shoot.

Although there is probably something profound to be said about the way Movie captures the communal joy of filmmaking and how everyone has a certain level of artistry in them and a desire to be part of a close-knit community, the movie is arguably eben better as an incredible, intimate portrait of a one-of-a-kind relationship that Andrews managed to form with the community in and around his trailer park. When discussing her part in the films, Tiffany begins to cry, overwhelmed with emotion when it comes to describing what it is she gets out of the films. Andrews' movies feature stream-of-consciousness stories and unconventional humor, but they capture a certain humanity in the people that he assembles to make them, and in turn, Rifkin captures that same humanity with the documentary. The film ends with the bittersweet revelation that Andrews and Ed later moved to Austin, TX. Not only is Movie a vivid and entertaining look into a weird and specific world, it's got the feeling of a faded Polaroid of a cherished moment, a time capsule of something special and personal.

The Blu-ray
Cinelicious brings Giuseppe Makes a Movie home with artwork that I would almost be inclined to guess was drawn by Andrews himself, a crude but surprisingly accurate sketch of the movie's oddball band of filmmakers. The two-disc set comes in a transparent Viva Elite Blu-ray disc, which also packs a thick 16-page booklet with reviews by former DVDTalk critic Bill Gibron and filmmaker Mark Borchardt. On the reverse of the sleeve, there is also an exaggerated illustration of a moment from the movie.

The Video and Audio
Just as Andrews' films are defined by their low-fi, homemade aesthetic, the documentary about him is fittingly cheap-looking, filmed on what appears to be consumer-grade digital video cameras and framed in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio using the AVC codec, the footage for the documentary itself is relatively stable, but it looks soft, features slightly desaturated color, is frequently plagued by aliasing and looks a little artifacty. Sound is a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track which is often muffled and hard to hear, although thankfully English subtitles are provided. Film footage presented within the documentary looks horrible too, blotchy and awkward, as if ripped from YouTube. It's not a pretty looking or sounding picture, but that's not the point at all -- it's a movie that embraces that look and feel, and had it looked any cleaner or better then it might actually feel wrong.

The Extras
I wasn't expecting Giuseppe Makes a Movie to be a 2-disc set, but it is. On the first disc, we get an audio commentary by director Adam Rifkin and producer Mike Plante. This is a laid-back, energetic, and enthusiastic track with two guys who are clearly delighted by Andrews' and his eccentric band of oddballs and drunks. It's a fascinating peek into both men's interactions with Andrews, and the long and unusual production process of making the movie, which was actually filmed years and years ago (which explains the decidedly "vintage" look of the film's digital video).

Disc 2 kicks off the set's flagship extra: the finished Garbanzo Gas (1:15:03, Dolby Digital 2.0). Just as everyone in the documentary says, there's something unusually engaging or unique on display here. The film's numerous non-professional actors have a certain comfort with the camera, and despite all the eccentricities and unconventional aspects of his methods, Andrews isn't making incomprehensible abstract art. It's weird, but it's definitely a story, and anyone who enjoys a bit of the film should definitely check out the full experience.

Given that Rifkin mentions on the commentary that he had 20 hours of footage, it's no surprise to see a lengthy reel of deleted scenes, entitled "Schlong Oysters" (25:02). There's a little more of Ed explaining his history, Giuseppe talking about the murals inside his trailer, Giuseppe and Ed talking about their philosophy about movies, and plenty with his band of actors. You can also hear Rifkin asking Andrews questions of his subjects.

"Vizual Medium Obzervation" (28:56) is an interview with Andrews, shot in 2012 with producer Mike Plante, talking about the finished documentary. Andrews reads a piece that he wrote in preparation for the interview, and the two delve into his passion for film, how things changed before he left the trailer park and moved to Austin, some of the things he's been working on since, and memories of the process, along with much, much, more. It's a long-ranging and lengthy interview with the movie's fascinating subject. (The sound quality changes a little throughout the interview.) This is followed by "Bill Nowlin Lives" (14:06) is a 2005 interview with Giuseppe and the man Giuseppe is disappointed isn't in the documentary itself. The pair chat about meeting and what it's like to work together, as well as other parts of their process and personal lives.

"5th Wheel" (22:09) is another one of Giuseppe's works: a TV pilot featuring most of the same key players from the movie. It's not quite as wild and weird as Garbanzo Gas, but it's no surprise that traditional TV networks weren't interested in picking it up. The disc concludes with "Directed by Giuseppe" (5:11), a short reel of opening credit sequences from his many productions, which provides one last glimpse into his unique vision. All of the footage on the disc is technically presented in HD, but none of the source video seems to be 1080p (except maybe the interview with Andrews), so it hardly matters.

Giuseppe Makes a Movie is a strange film about strange people, yet it's affecting, funny, vivid and unusually delightful. Without much of a clear style or even a particularly strong throughline, Rifkin still manages to bottle much of the vibe of Andrews and his crew of cast-aways. Highly recommended.

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