Fragmented Films 23rd Nov 08

At least if he was still addicted to crack it would make sense. But witnessing a 46 year old Flavor Flav, debasing himself on Flavor of Love (Shock) or as he wittily refers to it ‘The Blacktchelor,’ is quietly devastating. This series draws the life out of you like a vampire. Surely a man partly responsible for pushing a racial and cultural agenda in hip hop has more to offer than a cheap Bachelor knock off. But shamelessly he moves into a mansion with a bevy of 20 beauties, and by beauties I mean a terrifying mix of aspiring models, harlots, gold-diggers and stalkers. He weeds them out via a series of challenges, by dates in hot tubs, by groping them in showers and talking to their ‘titties.’ Whilst you’ll still need to burn your Public Enemy records, the notion that you are watching a car crash grows with each successive episode. The only question is whether it’s a fender bender or 20 car pile up? The girls, who Flav variously dubs ‘Hottie,’ ‘Peaches’ and ‘Pumkin,’ (because he can’t be bothered learning their real names) are unapologetically vicious and psychologically unstable. It culminates in the greatest moment in television history, as the evicted Pumkin approaches her nemesis New York, calls her a ‘trannie’ and spits in her face. All hell breaks loose. It’s like Godzilla. New York roars angrily after her, pushing her headlong into the camera. Suddenly all the artifice is gone. We see the lights, the cameramen, the producers milling around madly. Somehow reality has burst its way into reality TV. The camera follows out the distraught Pumkin. To get a statement to camera the producer reminds her of her contractual obligations as she begs to be left alone. Meanwhile they replay the spitting twice in slow motion. This is straight out exploitation, Flavor Flav and the women are just pieces of meat to these people. New York now has her own reality TV show.

Billy the Kid (Siren Visual) offers a much less homogenised kind of reality. A reality that is uncomfortable and difficult, beautiful and strange. “Did you see down my throat at all,” offers 15 year old Billy enveloping his mouth over the camera, and it’s a perfect metaphor for the entire film as he opens himself up unselfconsciously to the camera. He has no boundaries. “I know I’m unique,” he says, “I don’t let it go to my head though. I’m just someone who was born different from others. I’m not black, I’m not white, not foreign, just different in the mind.” Because of his deficiencies we expect the filmmakers to act responsibly and censor some of the potentially embarrassing moments such as when he nervously chats up the girl with the shaky eyes, then mortified hides in the toilet muttering ‘die die die’ over and over. They don’t. This film is remarkable. Billy is nervous twitchy, hyper intelligent. The filmmakers don’t diagnose him, they simply offer incredibly intimate slightly embarrassing moments and bask in his naive yet worldly perspective on life. Billy is touched and he will touch you.

The irony is that whilst all the hip hop stars are dripping bling to prove they’ve dragged themselves from the ghetto, they’re contributing to the enslavement of their forefathers, Bling (DV1) takes Raekwon (Wu Tang Clan), the guy who makes Flava Flav’s teeth and a bunch of other hip hoppers to Sierra Leone in West Africa to witness first hand the violence and poverty blood diamonds have wrought on the people. It’s incredibly powerful. They meet child soldiers, abused children, even a South African owned diamond mine. At one point they visit children with amputated limbs and Raekwon is so distraught that he doesn’t want to get off he bus. He can’t bare to face them.

Finally I’m from Hollywood (Umbrella) is a unique insight into the uncomfortable lunacy of Andy Kaufman, He was the luckiest man alive because he was able to engage his sexual fetishes live on TV. Challenging irate women to wrestle. “He would pitch a tent in his pants,” offers the excited filmmaker in the directors commentary before detailing how they used to strap him down so it couldn’t be seen. His wrestling fetish soon became all encompassing and like his comedy he took it far beyond what was necessary, sabotaging his Hollywood career and turning all of Memphis against him. Hilarious and wrong.