"It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen."

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Imposter and Craigslist Joe

I watched two really intriguing documentaries this morning - but in the wrong order.  Always watch the happier one last!  Now my day will be coloured with creepy!  I'll write about the happier one last at least.  Both get a B+.

The Imposter is about a messed up guy from France who was living in Spain, and through a series of chance events and manipulations, assumed the identity of a kid from Texas who had been missing for three years.  I remember when this happened, and I just couldn't understand how the family didn't know it wasn't him.  How could you not know your own child after just three years.  Sure, at 16, he'd be taller, and maybe scruffier, but you'd know the eyes.  Even if they were now a different colour.

But Frederic Bourdin had an explanation for everything!  He said the military had put solution in his eyes to change their colour.  Even the social worker believed this.  That's some solution!

It also helped that the family was pretty sheltered.  When told the long lost Nicholas was in Spain, his sister said, "That's clear across the country."   But she was brave enough to go get him.

I ended up with some sympathy for the family - especially the mother.  The most pertinent bit that I would have like to see more of was a brief interview with a family friend who explained how much the mom loved Nicholas, and everything was good, until she let a new drug-addicted boyfriend move in.  Then everything changed for the family.  She made a bad judgment call.  Happens to the best of us.

The movie is a study in wish-fulfillment.  If we want it badly enough, we don't make it happen, we just convince ourselves it already is happening.  It's much easier on us that way.

Craigslist Joe is the kind of movie to watch when you're about to give up on the world because it's filled with so many jerks and morons who do things like try to celebrate the tar sands as an environmental breakthrough.

One guy, Joe, decided to go for one month without anything he couldn't get for free from Craigslist.  He left home with no money, just a phone and the clothes on his back to see if he could rely on the kindness of strangers for food and shelter (and to make a movie).  Of course it made me want to try it right now - I've got a week free!  But there would be too many restrictions for me to succeed as well as Joe did.  I can't drive at night, so I can't barter with that - and it seemed he did a lot of that.  I can't be around anyone smoking, much less sleep in a house full of smokers, and that would put up a huge barrier for me.  And I'm female.  I assume I'd be more likely to face greater dangers, but maybe I'm just a little paranoid.  But this makes me wonder if Joe could have done as well as anything other than a 20-something American, clean-shaven, straight white guy.

And he wasn't totally alone.  The day before leaving, he went on Craigslist and found a guy with a video camera willing to silently (completely silently) travel with him and film the entire month.  The film owes a lot of kudos to the camera guy who made himself completely disappear yet captured some pivotal scenes.

In a film like this, I'm always left wondering if any of it was staged, but I'll go with it as if it was all real and happening just like it was shown.  And of course people might be a whole lot nicer when they're being filmed.  But I can't imagine getting around that one - could you make a whole movie with hidden cameras in your lapels?  Without a camera (or camera-operator), maybe he would have been ripped off - but he didn't have much to steal anyway.

The set-up of the film is a perfect start for a significant life-altering experience - and we're cued to expect something.  Unfortunately, Joe doesn't really go there.  He's kind and open, but he's lacking any real depth or authenticity.  The movie probably doesn't deserve a B+, but it was right there when I needed to see it, to be reminded that we can help people also by allowing them to help us.  People are interesting and kinder than we expect.  That's enough.

1 comment:

Mike Somerville said...

great, open-minded review. thanks for sharing that - I agree. Personally, it made me think, "Huh, i should email Joe and see what he learned during that time that he now (c. 2017) still applies to his life"
appreciate your summary.