[156 minutes. Director: Christopher Alan Broadstone]
One of my favorite behind-the-scenes documentaries – one that really captures the blood, sweat, and struggle of the independent filmmaker – is for Jim Van Bebber’s ferocious account of the Tate-LaBianca murders, The Manson Family. It’s blunt, candid, and refreshingly lacking in any delusions of cultural, moral, or artistic grandeur.
Well, add Christopher Alan Broadstone’s Reinventing Perspective to the list of worthy, honest documentaries that address the plight of the indie filmmaker and the desire to maintain creative integrity at all costs.
In this epic yet breezily-paced look behind the curtain of “garage cinema,” Broadstone explores every aspect of the process, which is made even more fascinating due to the extremely limited (but always dedicated) cast and crew. How does one achieve an ambitious masterpiece like Human No More – my #3 favorite horror movie of 2020 – through such minimal means?
The source of Broadstone’s inspiration – turning his titular 2004 short film into a feature – begins with an infatuation with a vintage chair (which will serve as a key piece of set decoration). From there, he chronicles – in a wonderful montage – the “where” and “how” of acquiring the necessary props (thrift shops, Craigslist, and even good ‘ol-fashioned dumpster diving).
By personifying department-store mannequins in various states of dismemberment with actual names, the filmmaker shows a commitment to his premise that extends beyond mere “because it looks cool” justification. One telling caption states: “Everything has its place and reason for being. Nothing is unimportant.”
As we progress through the film, we will see this statement put into practice time and time again.
Broadstone is not only a canny creator, but an active one – in addition to directing Human No More and three award-winning shorts, he has several books under his belt, and has served as songwriter/musician in the bands About 9 Times and The Judas Engine.
To that “wearer of many hats” end, observe the time-lapse sequence of measuring and cutting the wood that will come to comprise the German Expressionist-style set where Human No More takes place. A small group of collaborators paint and dress the set, and seemingly idiosyncratic touches – like a shard of mirror glued to a bar top – serve a very purposeful aesthetic and thematic function.
The pre-production aspect of Reinventing Perspective is a film in and of itself – an informal “how to” for those looking to quite literally build their production from the ground up.
Upon the arrival of actors Tony Simmons (Detective Nemo) and Gabriel Sigal (Mr. Blight), we not only get to see tidbits of Broadstone’s philosophical approach to storytelling (the “table read” with him, Sigal, and producer Matthew Sanderson offers brief yet wonderful fly-on-the-wall insights), but his on-set manner with a skeleton crew.
With an 8-day shooting schedule for a dialog-heavy film that takes place largely within a single room, it’s rather miraculous that the crew extracted everything they needed to finish the feature. It also speaks to the actors’ professionalism and rapport that they approach each take with a cool-headedness that probably made the long days more bearable for all involved.
There’s even a fun sequence featuring the extras who cameo as inhabitants of the Homo Amphibious Burlesque, some of whom only have a literal (visual) “hand” in the finished film.
Through the repeated graphic of a calendar – with each production day getting a strikethrough – Broadstone recreates the tension of a ticking clock that is the bane of every filmmaker’s existence. Observe the multiple takes of a crucial shot featuring Sigal – a mere 90 minutes from his departing flight back home – which underlines the frustration in trying to capture the perfect moment when stress levels are high.
Human No More is ambitious in that it weaves a new narrative through 3 short films created earlier in Broadstone’s career: “Scream for Me”; “My Skin!” and the titular saga that introduces us to Det. Nemo. The kaleidoscopic visual approach to this portion of Reinventing Perspective is just as creative as the rest of the documentary, blending a collage of stills and behind-the-scenes footage into something appropriately avant-garde. These images feel mired in a certain inevitability – as if the existence of Human No More (the feature) was influenced by the same tachyon signals that held sway over John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness.
As an aside, Broadstone’s short films are macabre gems in their own right, and work on their own terms and as important tissue in the greater organism that is Human No More.
Did I mention that “reinventing perspective” also pertains to the documentary’s propensity to hop back and forth (and vice versa) chronologically? As with the feature film that inspired it, Reinventing Perspective is no lazy EPK, but a work of art that benefits from the viewer’s full engagement.
Luckily for us, Broadstone has crafted one of the most fascinating and entertaining conceptual takes on the “behind-the-scenes” documentary that I’ve seen in quite some time. And, as Stewart Eastham’s fine score sets the mood for Reinventing Perspective‘s final moments, I felt strangely sentimental and very compelled to take the journey all over again.
4.5 out of 5 stars
Human No More (2020) is streaming on a variety of platforms, including Amazon Prime and Tubi. If you like what you see, consider supporting independent cinema by purchasing an autographed Blu-ray copy direct from the source at Texas Poetrope.
Reinventing Perspective is streaming for free on YouTube (click below).
(All stills from Reinventing Perspective courtesy of the filmmaker.)
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