With Documentaries Like This, Who Needs A Mockumentary?

I’ve got like 3 or 4 other wedding-related posts I want to write up, but don’t have the time right now, so here’s a totally unrelated post about a movie we saw last weekend. “Mockumentaries” have gotten pretty popular in the last two decades, in large part due to the success of Christopher Guest’s This is Spinal Tap…. Guest has gone on to make a bunch of other mockumentaries (though, none nearly as successful as Spinal Tap), and for some reason lots of folks seem to think they can make one. However, many of them suck — and often you can get much more satire value out of a real documentary.

I first noticed that soon after the dot com bubble burst, when the real documentary Startup.com came out and almost played like a parody. Soon afterwards, some amateur film makers sent me a “mockumentary” about an internet startup, that had a few amusing moments, but wasn’t nearly as biting and satirical as the real life insanity of the actual documentary.

However, I don’t think I’ve seen a real documentary feel quite so much like a mockumentary as Who the Fuck Is Jackson Pollock? (on the box, it’s “Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?”). Seriously, nearly all of the characters appear to be caricatures. If you just put the movie on, I’m sure some people would insist that it was all actors. You’ve got the tough-talking 73-year-old trailer-park-living, dumpster-diving, former truck driver lady who bought a $5 painting in a thrift shop and is so convinced that it’s really by Jackson Pollock that she turned down an offer of $9 million for the painting on principle (she thinks it’s worth $50 million). You’ve got the former director of the NYMOMA who obnoxiously flicks away her claims by saying she’s a nothing and who couldn’t possibly be right because he’s an expert (and the scene of him examining the painting is priceless — it’s better satire than even Guest could do if he scripted it). There’s the art dealer who insists that while forensic evidence and matching fingerprints may be good enough to convict people and send them to the electric chair, that’s clearly not enough for the artworld to believe that a painting might really be by Jackson Pollock. Then, there’s the slick and sleazy former art buyer of the rich and famous, convicted of fraud and sent to jail, who tries to rehabilitate himself by convincing the world that this painting really is a Pollock. Not to mention the forensic researcher who goes to Pollock’s studio and tries to find evidence by matching the gold paint specks he found on a discarded match to the gold paint specks on the painting.

A paragraph can’t do it justice. It’s worth watching. Tragically, can’t find a trailer on YouTube, or I’d include it here as well… There is this 24 second clip of a 60 Minutes episode on the same story, but it’s pretty brief and doesn’t highlight the true nuttiness of the film. Oh well. Better than nothing:

Leave a Comment