Giuseppe Andrews is the perfect subject for a documentary. Although he’s had bit parts in a slew of notable titles (one of my absolute favorites being a starring role in Detroit Rock City ), his real passion is filmmaking. Giuseppe Makes a Movie gives you direct access to Giuseppe’s highly unusual filmmaking style as he boldly attempts (and succeeds) to make his newest film Garbanzo Gas in just two days.
What makes this documentary so wonderful is how endearing its subject is. At first, watching Giuseppe craft and shoot his films you are simultaneously in awe and occasional confusion. It takes a little time to get fully immersed in the filmmaker’s bizarre little universe of homeless people and trailer parks, but you soon find yourself accepting (and loving) it. Giuseppe himself is an avid film lover—he discusses his admiration for foreign directors like Pasolini and Fassbinder. It’s almost immediately clear just how much Giuseppe loves films, filmmaking, and how seriously he takes his own vision. That seriousness, though, is never pretentious or arrogant. It comes out, instead, as pure dedication. What other director would literally wipe the ass (not once, but twice) of one of the actors? And likewise, the camera (or director Adam Rifkin behind it) never seems to judge or gawk. Instead, there is a respect and care that is shown to Giuseppe throughout the film.
The idea for Garbanzo Gas came from Fassbinder’s A Year With 13 Moons (1978). During a scene in a slaughterhouse, Giuseppe wondered—what if the slaughterhouse gave this cow an all-expenses-paid vacation to a motel? As for the completely unrelated title of the movie, Giuseppe apparently was struck by the pungent smell after eating a lot of beans and instantly decided that title was perfect. What Giuseppe cares about in filmmaking is not continuity, consistency, or any kind of sense. He cares about the “vibe.” He says as long as you’re “digging” the vibe of the story, that’s all you need. In fact, he writes his entire screenplay in pretty much one sitting, then never goes back to it until he starts filming. The lines are then fed to the actors in the moment who stutter over the very raunchy rhymes Giuseppe has created.
The universe of Giuseppe’s movies may have strong elements of Ryan Trecartin mixed with Harmony Korine and John Waters, but his work is solely his own. Giuseppe proves himself as a true auteur—he is responsible for every single aspect of the film down to the original music. The finances are handled by his business partner/father figure Ed, who lives with him. Ed also drives and cooks all of Giuseppe’s meals. Giuseppe is entirely uninterested in the money, nor does he express any interest in a different lifestyle. It’s clear that he has a deep affection for his trailer park neighbors, and they seem to truly love him back (one his friends, Tiffany, is overwhelmed with tears as she tells the camera how much she cares about him). This documentary is a wholly endearing look into the unapologetically weird life of true independent filmmaker, and earns its spot as one of the best films of the year.
Giuseppe Makes a Movie screens this Friday and Sunday at PhilaMOCA!
Author: Catherine Haas
Catherine Haas is Philly born and raised, and is currently pursuing her masters in film history at Columbia University. When she’s not organizing her Criterion DVDs by spine number, she can usually be found ostensibly reading a pretentious poetry anthology in the park while introducing herself to all the dogs.