LAFF 2012 Documentary Reviews: ‘The Queen of Versailles’ & ‘Vampira and Me’
The 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival started in earnest a few days ago. I have already seen a few documentaries hence I wanted to share a few thoughts on what I have already seen
The Queen of Versailles
Official Synopsis: With the epic dimensions of a Shakespearean tragedy, The Queen of Versailles follows billionaires Jackie and David’s rags-to-riches story to uncover the innate virtues and flaws of the American dream. We open on the triumphant construction of the biggest house in America, a sprawling, 90,000-square-foot mansion inspired by Versailles. Since a booming time-share business built on the real-estate bubble is financing it, the economic crisis brings progress to a halt and seals the fate of its owners. We witness the impact of this turn of fortune over the next two years in a riveting film fraught with delusion, denial, and self-effacing humor.
Thoughts: The topic of the tragic fall of an obscenely rich american family is sure to find an audience in these times of economic hardships. However, if you are expecting a story about rich people getting their comeuppance, think again.
This brilliant documentary does an excellent job at showing that behind rich people are human beings with their qualities and their faults. As the film goes on, you can’t help but feel sorry for that family and even root for them to make it. Furthermore, you get insight into our own american psyche in terms of our relationship to success, wealth and everything that goes with that.
All and all, this was a fantastic documentary with fascinating subjects and a compelling tale. A must see.
Favorite moment: So many to pick from but for me, it has to be scene with the Limo and McDonalds. Can’t say more; you just have to see this for yourself.
Rating: 8 out of 10 stars
You can watch a trailer of The Queen of Versailles below.
Vampira and Me
Official Synopsis: VAMPIRA AND ME is the story of a remarkable woman, an improbable American life, and a late-breaking friendship. Directed by Maila’s friend R. H. Greene, this new documentary combines archival footage of Vampira unseen for over half a century with never before heard reel-to-reel audio, rare photos, movie clips from over 100 “orphan” films, and Greene’s sensitive and comprehensive 1997 interview with Nurmi. The result is a poignant, startling and surprising tale of personal struggle and unlikely triumph.
Thoughts: I came in with just one expectation for this documentary: to find out about the life of Maila Nurmi aka Vampira. While that expectation was fulfilled, I was not really happy with how it was fulfilled.
The insight into the life of this iconic character was indeed interesting. Clearly, Maila worked hard to create and maintain this interesting yet sometimes disturbing image. So in a sense, the movie accomplishes that fairly well.
What I have an issue with is the somewhat subjective, fanboy like tone and method that the director/narrator has with the subject. This sometimes resulted in unnecessary scenes or moments that added a good 15-20 minutes to the film, which could have been cut out.
Ultimately, while the subject was interesting, the directing was too subjective and biased to make this a compelling documentary.
Favorite moment: There are fascinating scenes into the early days of television and what it took to make a TV show in an era where VCRs were a foreign concept and live TV ruled the day.
Rating: 4 out of 10 stars