It’s been almost two decades now that I’ve been regularly going to the cinema, attending film festivals and watching videos and DVDs, and I’ve seen a lot of films, some of which I’ve never even heard of since. Therefore, in the first of an irregular series (which, like the others I’ve tried, I’ll probably abandon fairly soon), I thought I’d try to recall various films that I liked at the time, but which it feels to me have disappeared off the cultural radar since. I’ll pick one of my first major years of cinemagoing, 1997, for my first instalment. And again, do be aware my tastes run to arthouse over exploitation… ;)
Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (Errol Morris, USA)
I’m going to kick off with a film from a filmmaker who’s hardly languishing in obscurity. Errol Morris continues to make persuasive documentaries, since first gaining prominence with his pet cemetery debut Gates of Heaven (1978) and breaking through to a wider audience with the true crime investigation The Thin Blue Line (1988). However, I wanted to highlight this particular film because not only was it was one of my favourites of that year, it is also a film that I think gets unjustly overlooked in his oeuvre. It takes as its subject a number of people whose work stories all intersect in some way with the creation and control of life, whether a topiary gardener shaping beasts from hedges, or a mole rat specialist, or a robotics engineer. It’s a fascinating and beautiful film which for me ranks as Morris’s greatest, not least because it tries to grapple with the grandest of themes, the meaning (or at least, an understanding) of life itself.