Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A fantasy documentary? Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau's KUNG FU ELLIOT qualifies


Some documentaries seem utterly fueled by the necessity to be born, to take shape, to... appear! Some of the best docs that TrustMovies has seen this year -- Code Black and The Internet's Own Boy, as well as the about-to-open 20,000 Days on Earth and Art and Craft certainly qualify for that description. They -- and their subjects -- are either so strange, important, vital or necessary that it would seem they simply must see the light of day. And so they have. On the other hand comes along a "maybe" documentary such as KUNG-FU ELLIOT, with a subject (that guy of the title) so unbelievable, if kind of creepy and phony that, you wonder, after a time, if you are not seeing another faux/mock piece of work like Exit Through the Gift Shop -- but without even half the smarts and appeal that Banksy brought to that little film.

As directed and "written" by a couple of Canadians -- Matthew Bauckman (at right) and Jaret Belliveau (below) -- who've worked on a number of other films, Kung Fu Elliot is one of those how-dumb-can-people-come? documentaries that beggars belief almost from the first scene, as we meet a fellow named Elliot "White Lightning" Scott who is supposedly a champion Canadian martial artist. While his martial arts moves couldn't fool even my grandkids into believing he's anything like "the real thing," our two documentarians appear to believe the guy or

at least take his word on faith. After a short while, the viewer can't help but wonder why. Is this a case of making fun of one's subject for the entertainment of the arthouse/doc film masses (not all that numerous in any case)? Or are our two Canuck moviemakers actually dumb enough that they believe Elliot? (I am told my the movie's publicist that they are definitely not.) Either way, an intelligent viewer is going to be given almost immediate pause. Yes, Elliot is kind of fun in his fairly stupid, can-anyone-be-this-dumb? manner, but we've already seen this semi-cynical stuff a number of times previously, and it doesn't take long before our laughter rings a little hollow.

Sure, Elliot, above, has a kind of reverse charisma with his so-so body, semi-attractive face and minimal understanding of martial arts. But the deeper we and the moviemakers get into the guy's "plan" -- to make a DIY martial arts thriller called Blood Fight that will set him on a course to become Canada's first movie action hero -- the less possible it all seems. While one can draw some cheap humor from this by laughing at folk not smart enough to realize their weakness, one can also begin to feel "used."

Meeting his girlfriend Linda (above), a lady who has a sour puss for the entire length of the movie (it only grows more sour, for good reason, as the months pass), and his seemingly duped co-actors, one of whom is shown below, only adds to the questionable "fun."

When, at last, the movie turns darker, wise heads will be murmuring, "Finally!", as we move into the home stretch. Once the film has arrived at its conclusion, with the expected update on what happened to the various folk we've just seen, a number of ideas will be jostling for space and importance inside your head, self-delusion chief among these.

Except there may be no self-delusion here at all. Elliot has known all along of what he's is and is not capable. Note the scene when we see him clad in just a pair of tight underwear, as he adjusts his cock and preens a bit. Later he notes that he's got the equipment to do porn films but maybe just not the interest.

There may indeed be some surprises here, but not, I think, for the seasoned film-goer. What has remained on the filmmakers' cutting-room floor may be even more interesting that what we have already seen, and it is difficult to believe that Messieurs Bauckman and Belliveau were not unaware of what kind of fellow they had in tow from pretty early on in the game. While it is eventually clear that we cannot trust our Elliot, I unfortunately have some doubt about trusting these filmmakers, too.

Kung Fu Elliot, a kind of fantasy documentary that runs 88 minutes, has been playing the festival circuit for the past year or so, and will soon play at the soon-to-begin Fantastic Fest, so take note, those of you in the Austin, Texas, area. Next comes the Raindance fest in London. To see where else this film will play (or has played), simply click here and scroll down.

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