July 26, 2011

NetPix: Marwencol

In the midst of summer movie madness, I've been trying to do a little counter-programming on my Netflix queue. I found a rare recording of a revised Tennessee Williams play THE ECCENTRICITIES OF A NIGHTINGALE, the original TRON newly re-released, the first Barbara Streisand TV special, James Franco as Allen Ginsberg in HOWL and a documentary about the folks behind Pixar.  But recently, I discovered another doc that just blew me away called MARWENCOL.

I had read about this film when it had a limited release here in NYC last year and put it on my queue.  It's about a man in upstate New York, Mark Hogancamp, who was drinking heavily and got assaulted outside a bar by a group of five youths.  He survived but his memory was basically wiped out as were his skills as an artist.  He had to relearn how to speak, write, everything.  However, he was sent home from rehab early because he couldn't afford it. Thus, he was forced started his own unique physical and emotional therapy by building a fictional, WWII-era Belgian town filled with toy soldiers and Barbies.

I have to admit that, when streaming on Netflix I often stop and start and sometimes never even finish films.  But with this one, I was riveted.  This is a fascinating story of a unique man who channels his fear and rage into his art in the most surprising way.  The photos he takes of the town and the people are stunning; they are at turns graphic, melancholy, creepy but totally unforgettable.  Mark's story has many surprises and revelations along the way so I'm not going to say more other than I have not been so moved by a documentary in a very long time.

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