Wednesday, July 6, 2011
PROJECT NIM, the new documentary from James Marsh, shown below, which is as fascinating and ironic a movie as you might expect from the filmmaker who gave us the award-winning Man on Wire.
Paul Verhoeven's Holocaust hoot, Black Book. So intent is Nim's original surrogate mother, Stephanie Lafarge (an integral part of the experiment, she is shown flanking Nim, below, with her then-husband) in making our hero human that she even breast-feeds him and teaches him to smoke pot. (This was the 1970s, remember: anything went.) Later surrogates were both amused and abused by Nim, who, as he grows larger, also grows stronger and some-times hurts his keepers. But he also knows how to sign, "Sorry."
The Elephant in the Living Room (about the hazards of exotics pets) and One Lucky Elephant (that explored the human/animal bond at the expense of the animal), Project Nim is yet another cautionary documentary that reminds us of the -- surprise! -- animal nature of animals.
Herbert Terrace, who began the experiment (and then shut it down). Self -justifying and self-satisfied, Terrace seems to have felt little for anyone other than himself. Then there is the late and perhaps unduly noted "animal rights" activist Cleveland Amory, who "rescues" Nim, only to plop him into his most horrible environment yet, and who will not listen to a word of good advice from anyone else.
Bob Ingersoll, below, who comes off as perhaps Nim's one true, sensible human friend. The havoc some of these people wreak, while unintentional, is no less horrible, and the fine film made from it all is both a parable and a cautionary tale about man and beast.
Roadside Attractions, opens this Friday, July 8, in New York at the Angelika Film Center and the Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center; in Chicago it will play at the Music Box Theater and in Evanston, IL, at the Cinema Arts 6. The film will open in the Los Angeles area, and in Boston, Atlanta, San Diego, Phoenix and San Francisco on July 15, with a wider expansion expected to follow soon.