Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Filmmakers probe actor, discover nothing at all in Ott & Silver's ACTOR MARTINEZ

Have you ever wondered why it is that certain indie filmmakers find actors -- their inner and outer lives -- so goddamned interesting, while most audiences (even those who treasure indie films) would rather run for the hills than sit through a documentary exploring an actor's psyche. If the performer is hugely talented and/or a well-known celebrity, there's a built-in hook, of course. Otherwise, actors are pretty much dime-a-dozen, usually quite self-involved, narcissistic and boring (TrustMovies was one, way back when, and he, too, fit that profile all too well). So as subject for a film, actors are mostly tiresome. Two fairly recent, failed examples of this kind of ersatz documentary come immediately to mind, both by Robert Greene -- Actress and Kate Plays Christine -- and now we have yet another one opening this week, which is perhaps the most tiresome of them all: ACTOR MARTINEZ from Mike Ott and Nathan Silver (shown below, with Mr. Ott on the left).

The film's backstory can be more easily understood via the press release than from the film itself, so I will give it to you, verbatim, below:

Being in show business is tough, but being an actor in Denver is tougher, so when performer and full-time computer repairman, Arthur Martinez, hires two indie filmmakers to make a feature film with him as the lead, he realizes he’s in over his head. “You guys have ruined my life,” Arthur says one moment immediately following with, “This is the best film I’ll ever be in.” The filmmakers scrap the genre film Arthur had intended them to make — instead quickly designing an entirely new project based around his real-life persona, which becomes more and more elusive as the production steams ahead. Once Arthur realizes what the filmmakers are up to, his protective measure is to hide behind a mask, keeping the filmmakers questioning: are any of Arthur’s moments on camera truthful or is it all just a performance in the end?

To which you might be tempted to ask, Yeah, but who gives a shit? Exactly. On the other hand, if what was described above came to vital and extraordinary life via well-chosen, closely observed and ultra-telling moments, we might be drawn in and held fast. Instead what we get is drab, tiresome, even phony moments that don't come nearly to life, let alone art of any kind. There's no style, little wit, and mostly just boring, slapdash scenes strung together to fill out 75 lousy minutes.

We sit through auditions for the role of Martinez's girlfriend (this proves the most energized portion of the doc), and eventually the part is given to indie actress Lindsay Burdge (below, center right). We watch our guy, shown above and below, repair a couple of computers along the way, and if the filmmakers had gotten more deeply into the details of these repair jobs, the movie would have been more interesting and even helpful to those of us who want to know more about the machines we're using.

Mr. Martinez (shown above, left and below) is a rather average-looking, early-middle-aged man, with no discernible acting talent that the film manages to uncover. But he's just fine at seeming like a typically boring subject for a documentary. Perhaps Denver is not the best city in the USA for would-be actors to call home.

We never get any sense of what kind of film might actually come out of all this, except to suspect that whatever it turns out to be will bore us to within an inch of our life. I have to admit that the final line of dialog is funny and smart. But it's the only thing in the entire movie that is. And 70 minutes is too long to have to wait for it (for whatever reason, the film offers a full five minutes of end credits).

Released via Breaking Glass Pictures, the documentary opens this Friday, March 10, at the Laemmle Music Hall 3 in Los Angeles; on March 17 at the Cinema Village, New York City, and the Clinton Street Theater in Portland, Oregon; and on March 24 at the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe.

The photo, second from top, of the two filmmakers 
is by Melanie Ott and comes 
courtesy of Getty Images.

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