Friday, October 27, 2017

MANSFIELD 66/67: P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes' snarky ode to that blond bombshell

Part camp, part history, part gossip/rumor, part archival treasure trove, part animation, MANSFIELD 66/67 purports to give us the inside story of not-quite super-star Jayne Mansfield, her relatively short life, thirteen-year career and grizzly death. Certainly as much mockumentary as documentary, the movie joins the ever-growing ranks of what are now termed hybrid docs. Whatever you might have thought of Ms Mansfield -- if you're even old enough to remember her -- chances are you'll leave this semi-sleazy little movie feeling that the star somehow been cheated out of any kind of genuine bio-pic.

To be fair, the film's press release describes the doc as "a true story based on rumor and hearsay, where classic documentary interviews and archival materials are blended with dance numbers, performance art, and animation." That's an on-the-mark description, and the film's lengthy "disclaimer," which is the very first thing you'll see on screen, seems to underscore this idea.

As directed by P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes (shown above, with Ebersole on the right), the movie is almost consistently hit and miss, beginning with a post-disclaimer choral group singing a kind of ode of Ms Mansfield that's campy and cute. But when the group comes back again, below, as patrons of a hair salon, its routine is mostly obvious and unfunny.

Over and over during this mock/doc, you may find yourself asking, Why are they showing us this? And so damned much of it, too? Mostly, TrustMovies suspects, this is simply "filler," so that the film will last the requisite full-length running time.

Information-wise, the doc's ace-in-the-hole would seem to be Mansfield's relationship with Satanist Anton LaVey (above), but even this is babbled about for far too long without giving us much of anything ether definitive or all that important. The movie includes interviews with everyone from John Waters (in tackier mode than usual) to Kenneth Anger, Mary Woronov and gossip monger A.J. Benza, plus some would-be historians, culture mavens and assorted drag performers (one of whom is shown below).

The worst thing about the film is the blond would-be Mansfield look-alike (who looks almost nothing like the star, save for some blond tresses) and may be a female impersonator, in any case. This person takes up far too much screen time, dancing and carrying on and dragging out this too-long movie by maybe ten or fifteen minutes too many. Is she/he the director's girlfriend/boyfriend or son/daughter, perhaps? Who knows? Who cares -- except that s/he brings the movie down considerably.

The doc is not a dead loss. There are some fun and/or funny moments along the way, and recapping this sex goddess' career may spark some interest in her oeuvre from the younger set.

Overall, however, this is the case of a possibly good idea gone south or maybe just a bad one given a few good laughs before being done to death. Ms Mansfield, who made some fun films during her short stay, deserves better. And so perhaps does even the bizarre Mr. LaVey (above).

From filmbuff and running 84 minutes, the movie opens today, Friday, October 27, in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Ahrya Fine Arts in conjunction with a couple of Ms Mansfield's better-known movies. You can check the theater's daily schedule here. Otherwise, the film will plays at a number of cities around the country. Click here to view them all.

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