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USA, 1997 (MIFF 1998, Documentaries)

Director: Errol Morris

Errol Morris' amazing, eccentric documentary is yet another satisfying chapter in the filmography of a self-confessed obsessive/compulsive who is never happier than when he is recording the lives of those even stranger than himself.

Festival audiences will be familiar with the extraordinary The Thin Blue Line (1988), Morris' investigation into the shooting of a Texas policeman that had a significant bearing on the outcome of the trial and subsequent appeal. Fast, Cheap and Out of Control takes a few strides back to works like Gates of Heaven (1978, an in-depth look at pet cemeteries) or 1981's Vernon, Florida, with the pastimes of oddballs on public display.

No shortage of current Hollywood luminaries worked on the project; Barry Sonnenfeld (Get Shorty, Men in Black) gets behind the camera for an interview with one of Morris' four subjects, lion tamer Dave Hoover. Robert Richardson was responsible for the wild visual experiments in capturing images of George Mendonça's crazed topiary gardens, well before he attempted similar work on Oliver Stone's contentious Natural Born Killers.

The director's subjects explain their life missions, tasks the director has described as "four versions of Frankenstein." A robot scientist and an ardent fan of the Mole Rat round out this curious crew and Morris knits the four tales into something poetic and metaphysically meaningful that enchanted audiences at last year's Sundance Film Festival. A celebration of a universe of chaos peopled by happy crackpots who can draw immense pleasure from something as simple as the underground feeding habits of a hairless rodent with teeth the size of its head! Don't pass this one up.

Errol Morris has spent the past 20 years making some of the most distinctive documentaries committed to celluloid. Roger Ebert named Morris' Gates of Heaven (1978) as one of the ten best films of all time. In works such as Vernon, Florida (1981), The Thin Blue Line (1988) and A Brief History of Time (1991), Morris has created as interview style described as the "cinematic equivalent of psychoanalysis."

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