Dave's Rating:


… very cool …

Who's in It: Robert Wilson, David Byrne, William S. Burroughs, Philip Glass, Jessye Norman, Susan Sontag, Tom Waits, Suzanne Wilson

The Basics: Here's a very cool documentary about avant-garde stage director Wilson. It's fine if you don't know who he is. His whole career has been about creating really strange stuff that a lot of people don't get — like a seven-day-long play that was staged in the mountains of Iran. Stuff like that. On the more accessible end of the spectrum, you get Einstein on the Beach: The Changing Image of Opera with Glass and The Black Rider with Waits. Anyway, you may walk into this saying, "Robert who?" but you'll leave it thoroughly on board for a seven-day-long play in Iran. 168 hours. No, seriously.

What's the Deal? Still not ringing a bell? Americans who never see theater (aka most of you) might remember the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. That was when Wilson was going to become a household name for staging a multinational production called CIVIL warS. And he did become more well-known — but not for actually getting to create a work of art. It was because the Olympic committee, in its knuckleheaded wisdom, pulled the funding. Because, really, who needs art anyway when sports are so much more important? As you might guess, he's more well-received in Europe, where the things he does aren't automatically seen as esoteric and useless.

What You Learn Most About Wilson in This Movie: He's all smiles when he's being interviewed, turning on the Texas charm. (He was born a misfit gay boy, the son of the mayor of Waco, in the shadow of big Baptist Baylor University, so of course he had to split that dead end as quickly as possible.) But when he directs, he becomes a perfectionist tyrant. There are several scenes where you get to see him screaming at uncomprehending actors and singers. Hilarious. Also that he's a genius. The late Sontag was convinced of this. And her stamp of approval was as fair a marker as any.

Another Peek Into His Mind: They show his apartment on camera, and it looks like one giant room with rows and rows of interestingly designed but uncomfortable chairs. He either really loves chairs and has a hundred friends over to sit in them at once — or his butt has ADD.


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