Sunday at Silverdocs, or Screened Out

After four long days of film screenings, I was only able to attend two films today on the last day of Silverdocs. I managed an early afternoon screening of Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos, a documentary about the notorious 1970s soccer team led by colorful stars Pele and Giorgio Chinaglia. The film describes the team’s brief flash of popularity in the 1970s, their appearances at Studio 54, their famous fans, including Mick Jagger and Henry Kissinger (the film implies that one of the motivations behind Pele’s career with the Cosmos is that it would improve relations between the US and Brazil), and the packed stadiums where the Cosmos played, complete with cheerleaders and Bugs Bunny mascots (the Cosmos were owned by Warner chief Steven Ross).

In general, Lifetime was a fun film about the meteroic rise and fall of US soccer enthusiasm in the 1970s, one that could have been even more playful and fun had the directors played up the team’s nightlife activities even further. That being said, it’s impossible to deny the impressive amount of work that went into compiling the interviews and archival materials, not to mention all of the music clearances, that went into making the film. Lifetime also seems to show virtually every goal Pele scored on US soil, which I think will make the film especially enjoyable for longtime soccer (football) fans. It also shows the long-term impact of the New York Cosmos and the North American Soccer League on today’s US soccer fans, noting that many of the fans who attended Cosmos games are now among the biggest stars on the U.S. World Cup teams (Mia Hamm in particular), while the Cosmos and other soccer ambassadors also helped promote the idea of youth soccer in the late 1970s. Lifetime wasn’t spectacular, but US soccer fans and people curious about the 1970s will likely find it relatively interesting.

I followed Lifetime with Linas Phillips’ Walking to Werner (IMDB; official site), a film very much in the spirit of the director who inspired it, Werner Herzog. Learning that Herzog once walked from Munich to Pris to visit a dying friend, Linas decides to journey on foot from his home in Seattle to the director’s residence in Los Angeles, a distance of over 2,100 miles. Phillips exchanges emails and plays phone tag with Herzog, eventually learning that Herzog will be in Thailand to shoot a film, but Linas decides to continue his journey, confronting all manner of obstacles (speeding cars, narrow bridges, physical exhaustion) and friendly eccentrics along the way. While I enjoyed Walking and found Linas charming, his story was perhaps a little too earnest and sentimental in places. In fact, Herzog’s attempts to direct the film from afar come across as far more intereting, with Herzog at first refusing to meet Linas at the end of his journey because the film should be about Linas and not Herzog and later (as Phillips mentioned during the Q&A) giving Linas his blessing to use audio from an interview Herzog recorded for the DVD version of Fitzcarraldo, telling Phillips that good filmmakers “have to steal.”

Because Walking ran longer than I anticipated, I decided to skip Road to Guantanamo for now (it’s playing at the E Street starting this weekend), but by that point I was pretty much exhausted, screened out, after something like ten movies and three shorts in four days. But before I wrap coverage on Silverdocs 2006, I just wanted to congratulate the Sterling Feature Award Winner, Jesus Camp, which I liked quite a bit (and hope to discuss further in the next few days) and the Audience Award Winner, Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?, which I also liked quite a bit. Now, with Silverdocs coming to a close, I’m going to have to return to my normal life, or at least some version of a normal life before I leave for Fayetteville at the end of the month.

5 Comments »

  1. cynthia Said,

    June 19, 2006 @ 5:11 pm

    interesting to characterize it as herzog attempting to direct the film from afar…i suppose it’s true, though linas was explcitly begging for direction, so herzog was really just complying. or perhaps more appropriately he was backhandedly and disinterestedly directing by putting linas off, putting the focus back on linas.

  2. Chuck Said,

    June 19, 2006 @ 5:30 pm

    I may have overstated things a little when I suggested that Herzog was “directing from afar,” but by Sunday night, I was completely exhausted. That phrasing sounds as if Herzog was manipulating the film, and I don’t read it that way. Perhpas it’s better to say that even when Herzog was “directing” in that sort of disinterested way, I felt the emailed dialogues and phone messages with Herzog were fascinating. And looking back, I think Phillips uses that material really well.

  3. cynthia Said,

    June 20, 2006 @ 11:30 am

    i definitely understand the exhaustion. that’s why i chose to wait until the next day before writing!

  4. Chuck Said,

    June 20, 2006 @ 4:50 pm

    I was hoping these shorter sounbite entries wuld trigger long, thoughtful reflections later on, but now I’m not so sure they will. I think I’ve finally recovered from Silverdocs just in time to attend a free screening of Wordplay. I have to admit that I’m not really a fan of crossword puzzles, much less the Times puzzles, but free is my favorite price, so I’ll likely check it out (if I can find my ticket voucher amidst my stack of soon-to-be-packed books).

  5. cynthia Said,

    June 20, 2006 @ 5:10 pm

    yeah free is worth it, even if you end up hating the film! i’m not a fan of crosswords myself. a bunch of random words overlapping, doesn’t even add up to anything.

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