Eye For Film >> Movies >> A Brief History of Errol Morris (1999) Film Review
A Brief History of Errol Morris
Reviewed by: Nicola Osborne
Weirdo, the Super Chicken, lives! Watch a man eat his own shoes! See Stephen Hawking fly! Design your own execution! Tame lions! Build your own Interrortron! Photograph molerats! Have your death row sentence quashed! Discover how you too can learn to live with your dead pets and much, much more...
Yes, we are firmly in oddball America for this them-watching-us-watching-them- watching-us documentary about the celebrated Errol Morris, a maker of "non-fiction films". Using footage from his eclectic back catalogue mixed in with interviews of Morris himself, and various friends and colleagues, this is an entertaining effort from Kevin Macdonald (One Day in September).
A child cello prodigy, turned failed student, turned film-maker, Morris spent many years intending to make films until Werner Herzog (a film-maker and cinema programmer) jokingly promised to eat his own boots if Morris ever finally got a film finished.
Thus Morris was inspired to complete his first film, Gateway To Heaven, and Herzog was forced to eat his footwear in a public show of support for the acclaimed documentary about two pet cemeteries.
Morris interviewing style developed from here so that his subjects felt comfortable enough to share all with the camera leading to - as one of Morris's colleagues notes - "monologues that most writers would kill to have written".
Although the film is a fascinating professional biography of Morris, it only hints at the man beneath. However, we do learn about his brief spell as a private eye which carried over into his next film project The Thin Blue Line and how it led to a man being released from death row. Morris himself is a charming and enigmatic figure, chattier than you might presume after the description of his interview technique (he will not, apparently, fill silences with questions so his subjects just talk and talk and talk...).
In fact this is part of what makes the film unexpectedly compulsive and means it could easily - and this is not something that can be said about many documentaries - be a little longer. Certainly A Brief History... makes you want to head off and watch most of the Morris work profiled if not a few other films besides.
A funny and attention grabbing portrait of a unique filmmaker who is easily interesting enough to warrant being the subject of one of his own films.Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
If you like this, try:Standard Operating Procedure