New Horizons 2014: Giuseppe Makes a Movie

Michael Pattison

Not much can go wrong when a film boasts the amateur acting talents of Walt Dongo, Vietnam Ron, Sir ‘Bigfoot’ George and a pensioner named Tyree who fumbles his way through lines like “I’m a satanic, sadomasochistic, senior citizen psychopath and I’ve got nothing to lose but my motherf***ing security check!” And not much does go wrong in Adam Rifkin’s Giuseppe Makes a Movie, a hilarious documentary on Giuseppe Andrews, who as a child actor appeared in cult classic Detroit Rock City and Independence Day, and who today lives in a trailer park in Ventura, California.

In Giuseppe Makes a Movie, Giuseppe makes a movie—the latest in a long chain of unapologetically low-budget curios whose emphasis is very much on a diggable vibe rather than a coherent plot. Andrews writes, directs, shoots and edits his films, and next-door neighbour ‘Big Ed’ produces them. Ed used to be the keyboard player for the Beegees, and today is the fatherly brains behind Giuseppe’s indefatigable creative endeavours. Their latest film, the Fassbinder-inspired (and Rifkin-produced) Garbanzo Gas, revolves around two thrill-seeking chaps shacked up at a motel, who happen upon a cow who’s been sent on an all-expenses vacation by the same slaughterhouse where he’ll eventually meet his fate.

For the shoot, Andrews sets himself a challenge: to film the whole thing in two days. Spoiler alert: he does, though not without hiccups, such as one actor not showing up and another showing up having soiled himself on his way there. Rifkin’s film somehow never feels exploitative. There’s no sermonising, emotionalising or moralising in its depiction of an electively marginalised man bringing together a band of men and women—many of whom are homeless and/or jobless—to make a rewardingly unfussy film.

Andrews’ directing style is loose, flexible and ad-hoc, feeding his performers their lines as he’s filming. But it’s his gift for writerly idiosyncrasy that lends the films their weirdly wonderful edge. Burdened by budgetary baggage, other so-called independent filmmakers can only dream of concocting lines such as “I’m gonna wong my noopty-doos on your nipple chunks”, or “My typewriter’s gonna rip your f***ing eyes out.”

In between the laughs—such as Andrews showing up on set in a wind-resistant bodysuit, to allow for more agile movements as a cameraman—Giuseppe Makes a Movie also doubles as an unforced, unpretentiously poignant portrait of life on America’s margins, and the positive energy that a collective DIY film project can muster. Among this film’s many uncomplicated pleasures is seeing the likes of war vet Vietnam Ron and Giuseppe’s long-time pal Tiffany (who at the time of filming had just lost her bar job) place their trust in one another—as well as in the young talent directing them.

Follow Michael on Twitter: @m_pattison

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