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Marwencol


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Just found out about this documentary over at the blog for the band Dolorean (one of their members scored the film).

Fascinating premise: a man is severely injured in an attack outside of a bar; to help the mental and physical recovery, he builds a sprawling 1/6-scale WWII-era village and starts creating his own stories set in it. The trailer is here.

The film seems to have amassed a fair number of awards so far, too.

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I knew this sounded familiar. This American Life did a segment on their TV show about it. The show has been cancelled, I believe, but you can watch it on Netflix. The Marwencol story is the last segment on season 2, episode 3.

to the movie trailer.

The man who built the 1/6 city, by the way, is Mark Hogancamp.

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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It's a terrific film, both as an art documentary (it's very hard to capture photography as an art form in film for some reason) and as case study through which to think about social policy, the imagination, and community.

FWIW, one of the pleasures of the film, for me, was the way in which it integrated and attempted to situate Hogankahmp's personal story with a presentation of his art, starting with what he was doing and gradually filling in the back story of how he got there. I suspect the American Life segment (which I haven't seen) may give away elements that the filmmakers would consider spoilers, so unless you are familiar with the back story consider yourself warned....

May be hard to find for a while...opens in NY on October 8 and LA in November...but definitely worth hunting down, particularly if you are interested in art,photography, or brain functioning. Huh, now that's a weird sentence.

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I suspect the American Life segment (which I haven't seen) may give away elements that the filmmakers would consider spoilers, so unless you are familiar with the back story consider yourself warned....

The trailer actually gives away more than the This American Life story did.

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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  • 3 months later...

This was an excellent documentary. Mark Hogencamp is a very talented guy. It's a shame that the beating left him unable to draw, since his artwork he did before the beating was quite good. With the storylines he constructed with his dolls in Marwencol, I could see him being a film director.

There is some interesting cultural commentary that could be made concerning Barbie dolls and GI soldiers side by side in a World War II setting. But the filmmaker wisely keeps the focus on Mr. Hogencamp, as a man who managed to create these elaborate settings using the tools he had at his disposal.

Mark has more pictures at his website: http://www.marwencol.com/gallery/. His Christmas photos are a hoot.

Edited by Crow
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  • 2 months later...

Really enjoyed the film. The photos are really arresting. And the filmmakers built a terrific structure for the piece. As Ken points out, a real strength is the choice to immerse us in the art, in world the artist has created, before pulling back to engage with his life context. I also thought they did a superb job with revealing the surprising story developments within the world of Marwencol, and gave me room to discover for myself the ways his art played out elements of his own real-world experience. It would have been so easy to hand us pre-digested psychologizing: instead, making the connections and discoveries ourselves, the filmmakers don't condescend either to us or to their subject.

But best of all are the actual scenes and photos. How about the single time when they assemble a sequence of his stills into a primitive sort of motion picture? So effective.

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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  • 4 weeks later...

This is what I wish Synecdoche, New York had been. I kept wondering if Marwencol would work as a dramatic film; on one hand, it could let us enter Mark's world in a way the documentary format doesn't--we could see Marwencol come alive the way it is in Mark's head--but I think one of the strengths of this film is how it lets you build stories and fill in gaps between the photos yourself.

This is up there with In the Realms of the Unreal and The Devil and Daniel Johnston for documentaries I identified with entirely too much.

Hogancamp looks like a young(er) David Lynch.

Edited by Tyler

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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Good call on the pairing with Synecdoche.

now I need to see In The Realms of the Unreal.

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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I want to make sure I caught something correctly:

Mark's cross-dressing isn't a result or after-effect of the attack, right? There's a scene where his roommate says that, after Mark came home from the hospital, he sees all the shoes in the apartment and asks if the roommate's girlfriend lives there, and he tells Mark that all of the women's shoes are Mark's, which would mean he had them before the attack. Do I have that right? It's a short scene.

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
Twitter Blog

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I want to make sure I caught something correctly:

Mark's cross-dressing isn't a result or after-effect of the attack, right? There's a scene where his roommate says that, after Mark came home from the hospital, he sees all the shoes in the apartment and asks if the roommate's girlfriend lives there, and he tells Mark that all of the women's shoes are Mark's, which would mean he had them before the attack. Do I have that right? It's a short scene.

My memory's not clear on this. Sounds right.

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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I want to make sure I caught something correctly:

Mark's cross-dressing isn't a result or after-effect of the attack, right? There's a scene where his roommate says that, after Mark came home from the hospital, he sees all the shoes in the apartment and asks if the roommate's girlfriend lives there, and he tells Mark that all of the women's shoes are Mark's, which would mean he had them before the attack. Do I have that right? It's a short scene.

My memory's not clear on this. Sounds right.

Yes, Tyler you are reading it correctly.

In addition to the scene you mention, the press kit for the film is a bit more overt on this issue and the background because of their request to treat Hogankamp's sexual identity as a "spoiler." Been a year and a half since I've seen the film, so I don't remember how clearly, if at all, they go back after the fact and underscore that he was specifically targeted for violence because of his cross-dressing and was not simply a random victim.

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I want to make sure I caught something correctly:

Mark's cross-dressing isn't a result or after-effect of the attack, right? There's a scene where his roommate says that, after Mark came home from the hospital, he sees all the shoes in the apartment and asks if the roommate's girlfriend lives there, and he tells Mark that all of the women's shoes are Mark's, which would mean he had them before the attack. Do I have that right? It's a short scene.

My memory's not clear on this. Sounds right.

Yes, Tyler you are reading it correctly.

In addition to the scene you mention, the press kit for the film is a bit more overt on this issue and the background because of their request to treat Hogankamp's sexual identity as a "spoiler." Been a year and a half since I've seen the film, so I don't remember how clearly, if at all, they go back after the fact and underscore that he was specifically targeted for violence because of his cross-dressing and was not simply a random victim.

Oh yeah, that's right. One of the late scenes mentions that Mark said he cross-dressed in the bar, and that's one of the main reasons for the attack.

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
Twitter Blog

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"Long wait" at Netflix. This is at the #1 position. I have been looking forward to Marwencol since it first came to Grand Rapids last Jan/Feb. I wish wish wish wish wish I just would have MADE the time to see it back then.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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"Long wait" at Netflix. This is at the #1 position. I have been looking forward to Marwencol since it first came to Grand Rapids last Jan/Feb. I wish wish wish wish wish I just would have MADE the time to see it back then.

Well, don't eat yourself up. It's pretty good, but it's not in the wish wish wish wish wish category. As an off-the-beaten-track discovery, it was a fascinating evening. High expectations might very well lead to a "so what was the big deal?" response.

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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One thing that you may or may not know about me in your sixteen year absence from the boards is that I have truly fallen in love with the documentary format. I love 'em. I wanna go steady with quite a few.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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One thing that you may or may not know about me in your sixteen year absence from the boards is that I have truly fallen in love with the documentary format. I love 'em. I wanna go steady with quite a few.

Is it only sixteen years?

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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One thing that you may or may not know about me in your sixteen year absence from the boards is that I have truly fallen in love with the documentary format. I love 'em. I wanna go steady with quite a few.

Is it only sixteen years?

We all have our issues, Ron, but yea verily, there is forgiveness and healing and the the prodigal guy comes home and restoration and all that good stuff.

The A&F yoke is easy, its burden is light. (Quite literally, second half of that sentence.)

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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We all have our issues, Ron, but yea verily, there is forgiveness and healing and the the prodigal guy comes home and restoration and all that good stuff.

Barbecue me some fatted calf, I'll be around a lot more often!

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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We all have our issues, Ron, but yea verily, there is forgiveness and healing and the the prodigal guy comes home and restoration and all that good stuff.

Barbecue me some fatted calf, I'll be around a lot more often!

The ribs are on the grill.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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What a marvelous film - I'm so glad some folks around here spoke so highly of this film, or I would've missed it for sure.

I appreciate immensely the humane, sensitive manner in which the filmmakers have framed this story. There are so many ways in which this story could've been told badly -

overemphasizing Mark's infatuation with Colleen (which is a bit creepy), ironic condescension around Mark's choice of dolls as material or with regards to his cross-dressing

- but I don't perceive a single misstep in any of the director's choices here. In using Mark's artwork for his intertitles, the director seems to have chosen a collaborative approach for this documentary, which no doubt helps us empathize with the film's subject. I'm reminded of Truffaut and my favorite Herzog films, in which we're given richly multidimensional character portraits - full of foibles, idiosyncrasies, and beauty - which urge a sense of wonder and love for those portrayed.

This is a film I'd love to watch with med students or residents. The depiction of the aftereffects of trauma and traumatic brain injury is remarkably deep and insightful here. And I'm no expert on what are labelled as

paraphilias, but it's my understanding that the flight into masculinity - for instance the military-esque uniforms worn by Mark at his gallery opening as well as by his alter ego - is a common occurrence for cross-dressers and gender identity disorder sufferers

. More importantly, though, the compassion in telling Mark's story here is inspiring.

Edited by Andrew

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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Saw it. Liked it a lot. Gonna let it seep. The film is no Stevie, but then again what is. I think I'll watch it again tomorrow, I may even go for those Tyler recommended deleted scenes tonight.

How about the single time when they assemble a sequence of his stills into a primitive sort of motion picture? So effective.

That was what I wished we'd gone back to, that's kind of where I wanted Hogancamp's work to go.

This is what I wish Synecdoche, New York had been.

The ending goes completely that direction, somewhat unexpected but it totally makes sense. Loved the ending. We could actually get a sequel out of this.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Marwencol is playing on the Knowledge Network in something called Canada.

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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