Title: Giuseppe Makes a Movie
Director: Adam Rifkin
A lot of independent filmmakers talk a good game about sacrificing for their art. Then there’s Giuseppe Andrews, who in “Giuseppe Makes a Movie” literally wipes the ass (not once, but twice) of one of his alcoholic actors, who’s shit his pants. This and more is chronicled in director Adam Rifkin’s oddly engaging, briskly paced documentary snapshot of actor-musician-director Andrews, which gives an overview of the process he typically employs in shooting myriad $1,000 productions starring an assortment of tweakers, alcoholics and vagabonds from a trailer park in Ventura, California.
As a young actor, Andrews had bit parts in “Independence Day” and “Never Been Kissed,” and he also made a memorable impression as the weirdo sheriff deputy in the “Cabin Fever” films. Now in his mid-30s, however, he lives happily in the societal fringe with his father and producer, Ed Perlstein. “I don’t find money exciting or creative,” he says. “It excites me not to have it, and to have to work with my mind to create something.” To that end, eschewing both crews and continuity, Andrews makes gritty, cinema-verite exploitation flicks, with sing-song scatological dialogue and fanciful conceits.
“Giuseppe Makes a Movie” unfolds over the course of just a couple days, as Andrews prepares for the two-day shoot of what he embraces as his 10th official film, “Garbanzo Gas,” even though he says he’s made between 20 and 30. (He explains the title thusly: “I ate a can of garbanzo beans, farted and called it ‘Garbanzo Gas.’ I didn’t question that, or second-guess that.”) Andrews typically works with his own little repertory company of slightly cracked non-professionals (says his father, “Most of them are homeless, but there are a couple that are a step above homeless — you know, like, they’re in cars”), which of course leads to all sorts of attendant weirdness. Through it all, though, “Giuseppe Makes a Movie” holds one’s attention; it’s an affectionate, ramshackle portrait of an equally ramshackle creative process, but there’s an electric charge to the whole affair, courtesy largely of its central subject’s charisma and loquaciousness.
Rifkin, who worked with Andrews on “Detroit Rock City,” no doubt has a rapport and trust with the iconoclastic young multi-hyphenate (he even produced one of his early films, “Touch Me in the Morning”), but he admirably doesn’t insert himself into the movie or attempt to trade on that relationship. (Even if he did, it’s arguable whether it would really matter, given Andrews’ unblinking candor.) Meanwhile, the actors in the movie — no-show gambling addict Bill Nowlin, a guy known simply as Vietnam Ron and the closest thing to what one might describe as a trained actor, Miles Dougal — are rich characters in and of themselves. If Andrews comes across on a certain level as a warped mixture of Harmony Korine, Rainer Fassbinder (he reminisces about gorging on foreign films like Luis Buñuel’s “Viridiana” as a kid) and the protagonists of Chris Smith’s “American Movie,” the folks in his orbit are reminiscent of Austin Lynch’s short nonfiction series “Interview Project” — broken but dignified, and never less than fascinating. “Giuseppe Makes a Movie” is a lively portrait of outsider cinema and the defiant spirit of life as art.
NOTE: For more information, visit www.GiuseppeMakesAMovie.com.
Written by: Brent Simon
A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Brent Simon is a three-term president of LAFCA, a contributor to Screen International and Magill's Cinema Annual, and film editor of H Magazine. He cannot abide a world without U2 and pizza.