Film · Review

Doc Appointment: My Scientology Movie, Francofonia

My Scientology Movie

Is it possible not to love Louis Theroux? It’s easy from the audience, we got that distance, but his subjects though, they have to deal with that. He can be pretty invasive at times, probing, he can play these people something fierce. Then they turn around and forgive him, there something about the way he’s the most likeable person in the world.

I guess that’s what his collaborators see in him, that’s why they throw him to the front. He writes, often co-writes, his films but doesn’t direct. You couldn’t capture Louis if he were behind the camera. Understand story as ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Analyse where story stems from in Louis’ flicks. Their past makes them interesting, it’s meeting Louis which is truly extraordinary.

The film gets this. For a film called My Scientology Movie there’s little about the church of Scientology. This ain’t some hard hitting investigative piece, Louis when faced with silence loses all his power. Instead it’s a character study, largely of ‘disgruntled ex-member’ Mark Rathburn. In choosing to structure itself around the production of reconstructions produced by Rathburn it gives an insight into this dude’s relationship with his self-image as relating to the church. It’s a swole concept, and one which is ultimately quite revealing.

Unfortunately the film never tells us what it’s doing. I hope I read it right but the target is so firmly painted on the organisation during the first five/ten minutes that when the arrow is finally loosed it feels like its going way off the mark. You take a while to fall into its shape, I think a rewatch, bearing that in mind, would be a smoother ride. As a subject though, whoosh, couldn’t have picked better than this guy. He’s a character, and while the film admits it never gets to the bottom of him it’s lovely to see it play as it strips the outer layers off.

Watch Going Clear if you want the definitive (for now, I’m sure) Scientology doc. If you wanna spend a fun hour with the world’s most charming thistle, watch My Scientology Movie.

As a side note down here Louis Theroux: Savile is proper great, an amazing analysis of our discourse regarding the unspeakable. Check it out.

 

Francofonia

Alexander Sokurov returns to the museum. It’s where people like him the most anyway. Forget Mother and Son, forget his amazing and beautiful adaptation of Goethe’s Faust. Sokurov is Russian Ark, and why not, it’s a great movie, just make sure to check out his others. You know, the ones with editing.

Francofonia moves us from The Hermitage to The Louvre but this time his focus is less on the history than the art. It’s couched in historical terms of course, the attempts of the Parisian curators up to and during the Second World War. Keeping France’s priceless works of art out of the jaws of a hungry and rapacious Nazi regime.

The film is waylaid by itself from the very start. ‘Why?’ It questions. Why do these people do this? What is it about art that so captivates and frustrates us. And what is it about museums that allows the very buildings to sublimate some of that essence into their very structures? So the whole thing is fragmented, stream of consciousness like. We see wartime Paris in reconstructions. Napoleon and Lady France wonder the halls and wonder about the meaning of it all.

We have lessons in architecture, geography, war, politicking, whatever the situation calls for as an interlude from one line of thought to the next. It’s a hard film to recommend then. Sokurov typically narrates his documentaries and this one starts with him worrying if it’s all coming together properly. It never does. There’s some effective moments by all means, and some intriguing ideas explored. It’s too big and sprawling and ill-defined to properly land but you can enjoy the ride while it’s happening.

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