Tuesday, October 14, 2008

NOT YOUR TYPICAL BIGFOOT MOVIE: What if Samuel Beckett had been raised in Appalachia?

What if indeed. Then this little 62-minute documentary might be profiling him. Hell, doesn't the Louis de Brocquy portrait (at right) of everybody's favorite "Is That All There Is?" doom-'n-gloomer resemble a weird combination of the two fellows -- Dallas Gilbert (left) and Wayne Burton -- in the photo above? Dallas is smiling, of course, which Sam rarely did. And though Dallas and Wayne claim that they are looking for Bigfoot, canny viewers will soon spot the resemblances to Godot, God and other of Sam's dark themes. I jest. But only just.

There is so much waiting, watching, walking and talking about he-who-never-shows during this sad little movie that my mind wandered onto the Beckett oeuvre more than once. The two men live in a dying Ohio ex-steel town, where one (Dallas) is unemployed and the other lives hand to mouth and looks to be jobless at any moment. Dallas is the "upper" and Wayne the "downer"; to say they complement each other is true but not particularly helpful. Dallas spends his time, when not in the woods "researching," as he calls it, on his computer -- posting his latest findings. (He's probably getting a lot more hits on his blog than I am on mine.) Wayne complains and tries to get his life in order, but it keeps unraveling before his (and our) eyes. When a more-important Bigfoot researcher arrives from California to examine the pair's findings, what tiny plot there is proceeds apace.

It will be easy for some urban audiences to laugh at what Jay Delaney's documentary shows them. And I admit that, while the filmmaker never goes out of his way to make fun, his subjects themselves open the barn door quite wide enough for that. What is likely to remain with you (unless, of course, you're a Bigfoot believer) is melancholy -- at the state of our nation and the fact that Dallas would love to work but there is none, and Wayne would like to better himself but sees -- with good reason -- little opportunity. We're made privy to moments with Dallas' wife and family. His kids think he's nuts, and on some level of course he is. But Bigfoot/Godot is at least keeping the man occupied, energized and somewhat positive as the end draws near. As for Wayne, the outlook seems more bleak.

NOT YOUR TYPICAL BIGFOOT MOVIE opens Friday, October 17, for a week-long run at NYC's Two Boots Pioneer Theater (is that not, hands-down, the most adorable name for a cinema?) in the East Village, where it screens at 7pm daily.

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