Friday, October 14, 2011

NYFF ’11: Corman’s World

Roger Corman is the Elvis Presley of genre pictures. Before anyone did anything, he did everything—and he did it cheaper. Tribute is paid to the original independent filmmaker in Alex Stapleton’s affectionately uproarious Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (trailer here), which screens this Sunday at the 49th New York Film Festival.

Corman has made hundreds of films, anticipating major shifts in the cultural zeitgeist with atomic powered creature features, rebellious teenager melodramas, biker movies, and blaxploitation cult classics. He always brought his films in on-time and under-budget. The one exception came in 1962 with The Intruder, a moody issue-driven drama about school integration and white supremacy filmed on-location in the Deep South. Now hailed as a milestone of independent filmmaking (by those hip enough to hail), Intruder was Corman’s only film to lose money. Appropriately, a special screening of a young intense Bill Shatner’s debut feature will follow Exploits.

However, after the experience of Intruder, Corman resolved to return to his low budget genre roots, subtly insinuating his political statements into his films, rather than trumpet them from the get go. Corman always was a trailblazer for the rest of Hollywood.

Corman has appeared in several documentaries in recent years, including Mark Hartley’s Machete Maidens Unleashed!, which documented Corman’s love affair with the authentic locations and bargain basement production costs offered by the Philippines in the 1970’s. Yet, there is very little overlap between the films. Indeed, with literally hundreds of outrageous movies to chose from, Corman documentarians need not fight over material.
Frankly, Stapleton probably could have made a film three times as long and the time would still fly by. Combining the joyous gusto of Corman’s films with top-shelf access to Corman and his celebrated alumni is tough to beat for sheer entertainment value. Easily the feel good film of the festival, Exploits screens with The Intruder this Sunday (10/16) as a very special event of the 2011 New York Film Festival.