2010 outsider artist documentary

Rating: 17/20

Plot: Mark Hogancamp was severely beaten outside a bar by a few thugs. He wakes from his coma brain-damaged and traumatized and instead of dealing with a complicated real world that he can't control, creates a World War II town called Marwencol with soldier action figures and Barbie dolls that he can. Elaborate stories of romance and adventure develop in Marwencol, and Hogancamp photographs it all. Eventually, his "art" is discovered, and Hogancamp gets to show off his world at a New York City art show.

If you enjoy outsider art or stories about outsider artists like me, Marwencol's definitely a movie you should check out. It's the lone film of director Jeff Malmberg (although I do see film editing for fine works of art like The Hottie and the Nottie is on his resume) and he does a fine job giving us Mark's story objectively. The more Hogancamp's character develops in Marwencol, the stranger he gets, but Malmberg passes no judgement and it's obvious that his subject trusts him and considers him a friend. And I think that's what makes this so good. Hogancamp lets Malmberg into his little world, and we get an intimate look at both the little world and at its creator. Details about the latter (how he walks his army figure's Jeep every day; his love interests; some odd little surprises near the end) are interesting, but this movie's got another layer when the plots and subplots in Marwencol are shared. A lot of those reflect how Hogancamp sees his reality and how he deals with the trauma and the loneliness he feels after the attack, but they're also cool little fictions, the sorts of stories that Tarantino could probably tell really well. A third layer deals with Hogancamp's introduction to the world as an artist, something I'm not sure he's entirely comfortable with or really even cares about. It raises those questions about the purity and purposes of art. There's no denying that he stills of his characters interacting in Marwencol are pretty awesome though. I'm really really glad that Hogancamp shared this world with Malmberg and that Malmberg shared it with us in this great little documentary, a fascinating glimpse at a troubled mind and the very positive way that those troubles are dealt with.

Hogancamp's pictures:


l@rstonovich said...

Yeah this was one of those ... god I'm brain-dead let's see what's on PBS moments. I came in halfway through and then the next night watched the beginning on Netflix. This film stuck with me for days truly a rare feat at present.

Shane said...

I think my favorite thing about the guy is that he walks that Jeep every day...I suppose it makes the vehicle look more authentic and all, and it's cool that an "artist," even if he doesn't know he's an artist, would go to that much trouble for details that small in the photographs.

RD said...

i will have to check this one out and let you know what i think, as i have still yet to cut the netflix cord...any time this week to get together?

Shane said...

Games Wednesday and Thursday although I'm praying for rain on Thursday so that we don't have to see Plainfield, especially since my pitcher has been suspended for the year for having alcohol at school. We're going to a baseball game Saturday. Friday or Sunday would probably work ok.

Another "outsider artist" movie I really like: 'In the Realms of the Unreal'...not a Netflix instant option though.

Matt Snell said...

Your blog is awesome! I've already picked out my viewing for the month.

As for Yuxo, I hate to do it since I, uh, obtained my copy through completely legal means, but I can dupe it for you. If you're in Peterborough I'd be happy to burn you a cd, otherwise I can upload it to the online storage I use to put audio files on my blog and send the tracks individually. I'm not particularly tech savvy, so let me know if you know an easier way.

Also, it seems impossible you haven't seen it, but I didn't notice Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans mentioned as part of your Nic Cage festival. Maybe you're just saving the best for last, because that movie totally changed my understanding of the man and his work!