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November 13, 2016

Denver Film Festival: Actor Martinez

actor martinez.jpg

Nathan Silver and Mike Ott - 2016
Mary Jane Films

Sometimes I'll see a film and wonder if there's any way I can write about it. With Actor Martinez the operative word would seem to be meta. Filmmakers Nathan Silver and Mike Ott and actor Arthur Martinez made a movie about themselves making a movie about themselves. Yeah, it's deliberately confusing, so that you're never quite sure what's staged or may be improvised in front of the camera, or when we are watching unstaged and unplanned reality.

Unlike films about filmmaking that still can be said to be part the narrative film tradition, such as 8 and 1/2 or Contempt, Actor Martinez is filmed documentary style for its entire length. Whether we're seeing Arthur Martinez at his day job of repairing computers, sitting in on the audition of actresses playing opposite him, arguing with the woman who portrays his girlfriend, or discussing his philosophy of acting, Actor Martinez seems to operate on the same principle as the found footage movie, which is to say, it is filmed reality because it looks like filmed reality.

Everyone in the cast plays a character with their same name. The genesis of the film was with Arthur Martinez meeting Ott and Silver, and his desire to make a film that would showcase his talents. The narrative of the film within the film changes with cast changes, especially when the main actress walk off the production. Prior to this, we see a networking session, one aspiring thespian who seems lost in his own reveries while a scene is being filmed, and Martinez performing in smaller, industrial projects.

One small moment that I liked was with Martinez appearing to want to run away from his own movie. Giving a sense of disorientation is Paul Grimstad's music, which reminded me of the kind of discordant scores sometimes heard in low budget horror films in the Sixties.

I'm not surprised to come across two very different reviews of Actor Martinez from when it played last Spring at the Tribeca Film Festival. Richard Brody, in the New Yorker looked deeply into the film, while Frank Schenk of the Hollywood Reporter was fairly dismissive. I don't mean to seem cagey, but this is the kind of film that is idiosyncratic enough where milage will depend on the individual viewer, to be embraced by some, and shrugged off by others. And it could well be that one viewing is not enough. Sometimes, just the challenging any preconceived notions of filmmaking, whether successful or not, is worth consideration.

Posted by peter at November 13, 2016 07:52 AM