Documentary making has traditionally featured many great philosophical contradictions over method and intent, but one of the most common of these former controversies now feels like it may have gone down the road. of an electric whip and a suitcase-sized cell phone. Back in 1975, when the Maysles brothers released portrait of mother and daughter Gray Gardens, they have been widely accused of taking advantage of their unknown subjects by befriending them, then bringing them up for public ridicule. Similar criticisms have been hurled at Chris Smith for his unintentionally hilarious 1999 documentary American filmmakes independent filmmaker Mark Borchardt a clumsy amateur simply by watching him work. But that particular complaint seems much less common these days, even if it’s because of the filmmakers more sensitive about how their subjects might be perceivedor because it’s so common for people to expose their lives online, we’re generally out of the idea that public display is invasive or shameful.
Documents by Michael Wayne Batman and I can restart the debate. His haunting look at an obsessive Batman paraphernalia is only mild in comparison Gray gardens. It opens with a compelling specific trait that goes beyond the Batman details and opens up a lot of conversation-starting thoughts about the different ways and reasons people associate with different fandoms.
But Wayne’s mildly disapproving, even dismissive attitude to his subject is notably remarkable, and seems designed to lead the viewer into a similar mindset. It sometimes feels like he’s shoving the audience in the ribs, with the line, “Download this guy!” message – and in the process, it’s possible to misunderstand that audience and why they might see it.
Wayne first contacted Australian collector Darren “Dags” Maxwell online, after doing extensive research Maxwell’s self-deprecating website for each item in his incredible collection of Batman toys, promotional items, and other merchandise. Maxwell invited Wayne into his home and life, and sat down with him for a candid, in-depth conversation about how and why he ended up with an entire room in his house just for specifically for the Batman device, most of which he insists he didn’t. t even want or like. It’s a micro-movie: Wayne interviews two of the most important people in Maxwell’s life, and he uses action figures to play out some lovable, daring flashbacks when Maxwell interact with friends, family and the public. But mostly, it’s an intimate portrait that feels like spending a few hours in Maxwell’s company.
Along the way, Maxwell tells some funny stories: He describes how he actually bought a shirt behind a man’s back at a conference, and how he avenged his ex-girlfriend, first by eating the Batman cookie she gave him in his collection, then by buying her own box to replace it. He also revealed some surprising revelations about the depth of his craze for Batman merchandise: Among other things, he still stores Batman ice cream bars from the 1980s in his cupboard. freezer, and he has a carton of frozen milk in his fridge, for an old chocolate Batmobile he’s protecting from blooms.
Other revelations include what goes into the collector’s mind. Maxwell describes the insurmountable need to accumulate things, regardless of their quality or usefulness. He goes through what started him collecting in the first place, what took the collection from a small hobby to a focus of his life, and what ended that period of his life. . He stopped buying new merchandise in 1997 because he found Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin interesting: His entire collection focuses on four Batman films from Tim Burton’s 1989 film to Batman and Robin. Now, it’s just a static museum. But when he built that collection, it was his main financial focus, first and foremost on everything but the basics of shelter and survival.
Maxwell describes his gathering phase as an attempt to find a way to join the community to make up for the holes in his life. He speaks with perfect frankness about his troubled childhood, lack of meaningful family relationships and a strong urge to impress other collectors and be seen as a man. authoritative, not of Batman, but of Batman memorabilia. He openly discusses how the fandom and his group of collector friends function as a kind of representative family where he can count on being seen as important and meaningful.
“Fandom and sci-fi in general, that’s the only thing I’m good at,” he told Wayne. “Outside of that community, I was nobody. I have nothing to contribute. I can listen to the conversations people have, and I say, ‘You know what? I have nothing to offer to be part of the conversation. ‘ I guess I’m living a very limited life. ”
That extreme level of self-dismissal can make Batman and I a rather sad movie, if Maxwell hadn’t delivered it with such cheerfulness, and if he hadn’t been in a stable, supportive, happy relationship, with friends who shared his interests and can speak with calm self-awareness about hugging and exploring their wacky sides. Even when Maxwell talks about his hobby and its downsides, it’s a boon for the film: He understands why people might consider him a “fail,” but he’s also realizes where his comfort zone lies and what it gives him. For a man who at one point wished he could punch the small child he previously owned and write his name on one of the used collectibles in Maxwell’s collection, he seems very neat.
All of that makes Wayne’s sense of being away from his subject. It’s not aggressive, but his off-screen narration betrays open judgment and impatience about Maxwell’s life. And he specifically suggests that Maxwell’s self-analysis is too gentle and preparatory, and that he is deceiving himself about the depth of his mania, assuming that he keeps his collection of I’d rather sell it. When Maxwell lamented that he had never seen what one of his toys looked like, because if he peeked inside, it wouldn’t be considered “mint in a box” anymore. , Wayne bought one himself and liberally unboxed it and smashed it together for the camera, in a move that feels tantamount to a gloating mockery. An impressive shot through the ending titles, with the action figures slowly dropping into the trash bin one by one, is like a clear editorial commentary on Maxwell’s life and the film as a whole.
All that makes Batman and I feel more condescending and strict than necessary. Wayne captures some people specifically talking about discrimination in the fandom, with Maxwell judging cosplayers, and some cosplayers talking about collectors and judges. (The classics of Lore Sjöberg Geek Hierarchy The film also tackles a multitude of worthwhile themes, including how the trade has dramatically changed to exploit nostalgic addicts for money, rather than targeting children, and how some people use using purchased items as physical tools against accusations that they are not “real” fans. And it really captures the tension within Maxwell, between the version of himself that intellectualizes, rationals, and reduces his need for his room full of unused toys, and the version of himself. still longing to cling to it, 25 years after he stopped adding to it.
But audiences are more likely to be drawn to those themes is an audience that’s invested in some form of fandom, whether it’s Batman related, collectibles, or something else entirely. This cozy little document may be too small and too specific to be focused on by those who like the gourd and rubbery look, but it’s exactly the kind of mix between familiar tastes and unfamiliar execution. Those interests may attract other fans. The Comic-Con crowd will find a recognizable mirror in Batman and I, complete with a guided tour from one of them, who has come to accept his own extraordinary indulgence and its meaning in his life. It just feels strange that Wayne is talking to the audience more than he is talking to it.
Batman and I Available to rent or buy online on Amazon, Vuduand similar digital platforms.
https://www.polygon.com/22985674/batman-and-me-documentary-review Batman and Me Review: Obsessive Collector, Meet Judgment Director