Favorite Documentary: Filmmaking

Continuing the discussion from Favorite Documentary: Music:

Following up on the Music category (and thanks to everyone who added to my watchlist there), I’m looking forward to seeing the recommendations here. What are your favorite documentaries about filmmaking?

This subject isn’t my forte, but I have a few favorites—mostly in the subgenre “movies that didn’t (or almost didn’t) make it to the screen.”

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse — A behind-the-scenes look at the madness that was the Apocalypse Now shoot. If you haven’t seen it, do.

Lost in La Mancha — Terry Gilliam finally completed and released his take on Don Quixote in 2018, but the story of his first failed attempt in 2000 is like a Murphy’s Law educational film.

Jodorowsky’s Dune — In 1974, Alejandro Jodorowsky started work on a massive and visionary adaptation of Dune. Spoiler alert: it didn’t happen.

And one more, not from the failed production category:

Filmworker — Leon Vitali was an actor on his way up, until he decided to quit that side of the business to be Stanley Kubrick’s assistant. And collaborator. And 24/7 monkey boy.

7 Likes

I mentioned American Movie in another thread, it’s especially recommended to fans of B-movies and how they get (mis)made.

4 Likes

Best Worst Movie jumps to mind right away, particularly because of its focus (I mean, it’s about Troll 2, c’mon).

I absolutely love Burden of Dreams, which takes an in-depth look at the making of Fitzcarraldo. Yeah, it speaks volumes about the mindset of Werner Herzog.

For me, one of the high points of the DVD release of The French Connection was the bonus documentary/retrospective, Making the Connection: Untold Stories of the French Connection.

6 Likes

First one that popped into my head. Love his personality and the films he did.

3 Likes

The Magic of Méliès is a good look into the work and process of this early genius of film.

2 Likes

And for those who are also life long DUNE fans, such as myself, Jodorowsky’s Dune is free to stream for Amazon prime members, or available on DVD and Blu-Ray disks. Though the movie never got made,he did team up with Graphic novelist Moebius (as mentioned in the documentary) and made a series of graphic novels that borrowed very heavily on the themes he planned to use in his version of Dune. The Incal - WikipediaWikipedia article for The Incal

3 Likes

This left an impression on me. It’s the ultimate filmmaker Cinderella story, if Cinderella went to the ball then got kicked out for being an arrogant jerk.

5 Likes

Seconding American Movie. There’s really no other documentary quite like it.

Elsewhere in the Discourse, I mentioned Lost Soul:

… although anyone who strongly feels that Richard Stanley is responsible for Dr. Moreau’s outcome is not gonna like the angle the documentary takes.

For the Cannon Films connoisseurs, there’s this:

7 Likes

I’m gonna rep for Herzog’s My Best Fiend, which is less a filmmaking documentary and more about how he talked himself out of murdering Klaus Kinski. There’s something strangely enjoyable about the offhand way Herzog says “I went to see [Kinski] not long after I had abandoned the idea of firebombing his house.”

Also Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse is my preferred version of Apocalypse Now and I would regularly spring this on people during weird movie night.

They were never prepared.

7 Likes

One of my greatest regrets in life is not being alive in the right time and place to see one of Kinski’s Jesus road shows.

3 Likes

The mere existence of a show wherein Klaus Kinski is portraying Jesus is as unto carjacking the very concept of religion.

1 Like

Lol, he was such a jerk, I couldn’t even finish it.

2 Likes

@ColdStorage Those are both excellent choices. After watching Val on Prime last month, I plan on rewatching Lost Soul.

2 Likes

Everyones mentioned my favorites, let’s see, something else, mmm (bop) The “Shark Is Still Working?” About Jaws

3 Likes

Another - while A. K. isn’t Chris Marker’s greatest doc, it’s still an interesting behind the scenes look at the filming of Kurosawa’s Ran, and is worth watching if only to see the work put into a scene that was ultimately cut.

3 Likes

Murderball, a doc about the US Quadriplegic Rugby team.

I’m really sorry I didn’t get the chance to watch Quad Rugby at the 1996 Paralympics (I did see Track & Field, Basketball and Swimming)

Shakespeare Behind Bars, about bringing theater to a maximum security prison and the transforming power of art.

2 Likes

This is the closest thread I could find for what I just saw. A documentary called “Jay Myself” about photographer Jay Maisel. One of his most iconic photos is the one of Miles Davis on the cover of Kind of Blue. He bought a 6 story Manhattan bank building in 1966 with 72 rooms for his studio, living areas and a place for his somewhat organized hoarding. I was fascinated by so much of this! It took 35 truck loads to move out when he sold the building for $55m. Highly recommended. It’s free on Hoopla and Kanopy

4 Likes

I have a fondness for the documentary Dinosaur Planet (Hosted by Christian Slater). The interesting thing is that it’s presented as multiple mini fictionalized biographies of individual dinosaurs, with occasional interruptions to bring in scientists at relevant points. As a result of this, it is also highly riffable.

I am here to perform some thread necromancy because I have a documentary that I think a lot of MSTies would really love. Bathtubs Over Broadway. It’s about industrial musicals- musicals, sometimes really elaborate ones, put on by corporations for their annual events. Sometimes live, sometimes filmed, sometimes both. Design For Dreaming would be an example. Anyway, it’s on Netflix and I highly recommend it.

3 Likes

The Imposter. Don’t read anything about it. It’s best to go in with no information at all.

1 Like