Not quite, but I’m surprisingly close.
Who is Alan Zweig you ask? Alan Zweig is a talented documentary filmmaker with a grim (though not unwarranted) outlook on life. I came across Zweig’s films, as I come across many great things, via Adam. Thanks Adam!
A few weeks ago I was trying to work (I think it was writing) and Adam put in Zweig’s documentary Vinyl. My attempt at working did not last long as I was drawn in from the office to the living room repeatedly by fascinating, funny, introspective, and really sad stuff I was hearing in Zweig’s fascinating film. We both fell in love with Zweig’s Vinyl, partly because it’s just a wonderful documentary about collectors of vinyl and partly because Adam and I both suffer from obsessive compulsive collecting to a certain degree…not for vinyl, but for various kinds of media…it is worst in me for books and comic books/graphic novels, it is worst in Adam for film as he’s managed to mostly curb his inner comic collector. Regardless, I guess my point is that we were really able to relate to the people Zweig interviewed (including Zweig himself), but from a slightly safe distance – though collecting is a bit of a problem for us – mostly financial – it hasn’t managed to take over or shape our lives (yet?) in the way that most of Zweig’s subjects admitted it does for them.
The film Vinyl is an unflinchingly honest documentary about collectors, and what and why they love what they love, and also why they have sometimes come to hate it. Zweig himself is incredibly frank about the fact that he believes his collecting gets in the way of his life – particularly for his relationships and general growth as a person living a “normal” life.
Being throughougly entranced by Vinyl (released in 2000) Adam quickly hunted down Zweig’s other two documentaries, I,Curmudgeon (2004) and Lovable (2007), these in combination with Vinyl are often referred to unofficially as his “Trilogy of Narcissism” and the title fits, in the best sense of the word. All three documentaries are executed in a very stripped down interview style. There is no fancy lighting, or great sets. The interviews are almost exclusively shot head on as medium-ish shots, in the subjects’ own homes, with the exception of Zweig’s “confessional” interviews with himself where he shoots just his head/face in a mirror. I suppose this would drive some people crazy, but I found it charming, and honest. Zweig is far more open I think and vulnerable talking to himself in the mirror than he would be in a more professional or staged setting, or if being interviewed by someone else. He knows exactly the questions he wants to ask, and he is brave about not dodging the ones that have horrible answers, or worse, the ones he doesn’t actually know the answers to. It’s almost like watching someone in therapy. But real therapy, not some staged witty version of what is usually written for “realistic” therapy sessions.
I, Curmudgeon in a nutshell is about being a curmudgeon…being a person that can’t just be happy and go with the flow. The people he interviews range from just sarcastic and bitter to chronically depressed. Zweig considers himself a curmudgeon, although he seems mild in comparison to some of his fellow curmudgeons. This was by far the most depressing of the documentaries – perhaps because I related to it too much. I don’t really consider myself a curmudgeon, and I doubt people I know would categorize me that way, but I absolutely have a dark sarcastic side and I often suffer from bouts of depression and I find myself either annoyed or confounded by people that just seem happy. Unlike most of the people in Zweig’s film I’m pretty good at hiding it (not good for me by the way) and I’m very socially ept. I suspect many of Zweig’s interview subjects would actually take issue with me empathizing with their problems…but I do, and I love that someone even wanted to make this film – it is so outside the realm of “traditionally acceptable subject matter” for mass consumption.
Loveable is Zweig interviewing solely women, women who are single and have been for a very very long time, some to the point of having always been single. Because Zweig contstantly ruminates in his films about finding love and a real life partner I can’t help but feel a small part of him hoped through his new film to find a woman that felt as unloveable as he did, and that they could be loved by one another, thus pairing off two people previously incredibly lonely. I don’t begrudge him this (we all want to be loved, right?) and I don’t think it affected his film, except perhaps in the editing room (some of the scenes run a bit long or repetitive). I suspect he fell in love with all of these women a little bit, as they were all pretty amazing, and yet touched with the same sadness that he is. Overall it’s a gripping and almost shocking documentary in that it really is surprising that some of these women are single and have always been single. A couple of them I nearly fell in love with myself. In the end, though I thought the film was excellent, it is the subject matter I related to the least (I have ended up lucky in love if nothing else in my life) and thus it was less powerful for me than his other two films.
In the end I can’t really recommend Alan Zweig or his films to just anybody, a lot of people will hate what he’s done here, however, if you’ve read this review and “get it” you should probably check him out immediately. For the record, here are the ratings (out of 5):
Vinyl – 4.5 Stars
I, Curmudgeon – 4.0 Stars
Loveable – 3.5 Stars
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