the beaver trilogy

I’d heard about “The Beaver Trilogy” a few years ago on “This American Life” and spent more than just a couple of hours trying to track down video clips online to no avail. Well, right now, thanks to YouTube, and a mention today on Boing Boing, I’m finally watching it, and it’s pretty amazing… Here, if you’re not aware of the project, is how it’s described on the filmmaker Trent Harris’s official “Beaver Trilogy” website:

Beaver Trilogy is a series of three pieces about the same subject, a young man from a small town called Beaver who is obsessed with Olivia Newton John. The first piece is a documentary. The second piece, shot with a home video camera, is a dramatic work based on the documentary starring Sean Penn. The third piece is yet another dramatic work, this time starring Crispin Glover.

As I recall, one of two of you out there didn’t like the documentary “Grey Gardens” because you thought that the Maysles brothers, who made the film, seemed to be taking some kind of perverse voyeuristic pleasure in chronicling the manifestations of their main subject’s mental deterioration. I suspect you’d have the same problem with the documentary footage here (part one of the three part series), which I think clearly revels to some extent in the delusions of their protagonist, a man who without question suffers from delusions of grandeur (and may perhaps be dealing with gender identification issues).

More so than the content of the three individual pieces by themselves (which, frankly, is quite weak at times), I like the idea driving the project. I like that the initial encounter between this fellow and a TV cameraman would keep unraveling over time, as the filmmaker thinks about it. (In the third part, I found it interesting, for instance, that he considers for the first time that the chance encounter that introduced him to the young man in the first place may not have been a chance encounter at all.) It’s certainly a case of the whole equaling much more than the sum of the parts, and I don’t know that I really recommend it, but it’s interesting, at least to me, to watch the progression of the idea in the filmmaker’s mind. (It seems to me that as time goes on, he develops more sympathy for the character, and perhaps begins to regret some of the mocking tone used in the earlier pieces.) One can’t help, however, feeling a bit bad for the fellow with the Olivia Newton John obsession who started the whole thing in motion.

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5 Comments

  1. Eric
    Posted January 4, 2007 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I watched some of this yesterday morning, thanks to boingboing, and was fascinated by the first 18 minutes or so. I looked for information on Groovin’ Gary but didn’t see any, but I did read somewhere that he’s does not want to be associated with the film. Or something to that effect.

    Sean Penn’s character in Fast Times must have been modeled after his portrayl of Gary in part 2.

  2. mark
    Posted January 4, 2007 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    I predict a Groovin’ Gary musical in another half dozen years.

  3. mark
    Posted January 4, 2007 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    And, yeah, it was like totally like witnessing the birth of Spicoli.

  4. Teddy Glass
    Posted January 5, 2007 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    And, speaking of beaver, who can forget this little sound byte?

    http://www.rosswalker.co.uk/movie_sounds/sounds_files_20061028_5981203/naked_gun/nice_beaver.wav

  5. Teddy Glass
    Posted January 5, 2007 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    And, thanks to You Tube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_00lSGylPFg

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