Truth or fiction? Art or self-indulgence? What difference does it make?

Confessions of a Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted-Mutha

on August 27, 2009 by Tim Cogshell
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Confessions of an Ex-Doofus-Itchyfooted-Mutha is another classic film title from the director of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971). Writer/director Melvin Van Peebles is noted for that film as well as production of his son, actor/writer and director Mario Van Peebles, whose films include Baadasssss! a fictional accounting of his father’s making of Sweet Sweetback, an iconic anti-blaxploitation masterpiece. Confessions serves as something of a companion piece to Mario’s film about that specific period of his father’s life. Here, Melvin recollects (loosely) the events of his early life from young childhood to young adulthood, but prior to the events that would bring him to Hollywood where he became an actor ( Watermelon Man, 1970) and eventually the writer and director of the of Sweet Sweetback and other films less noted. On first look, Confessions (a title so long as to be included in its entirety only once in this review) strikes one as the amateurish ramblings of an old nihilistic filmmaker engaged in a detailed self-reflection—which it is—but closer inspection reveals not only a coherent narrative but some very clever filmmaking involving elements of abstraction and narration, including the elder Van Peebles playing a version of himself at ages ranging from 14 to about 30. All of which works well in the context of what is effectively a semi-autobiographical artfilm. That said, even fans of Melvin would be hard pressed to justify buying a ticket for a one time theater viewing of Confessions, though one expects real filmmaker aficionados will want add this one to their DVD collections.

The film is divided into a number of vignettes that the filmmaker reconstructs fairly scatologically to tell a yarn that is part Twain’s Huck Finn and part Homer’s Odyssey. Moments range from his decision to leave home at the age of 14 to become what he refers to as a “…seeing eye-dog” for a blind blues singer; to the sting of his father’s death at the hands of a jealous husband; to his witnessing the murder of a bootlegging truck driver who gave him a ride. Along the way Van Peebles’ avatar (played by Van Peebles) dreams of traveling the four corners of world, but gets “…trapped in love.” He escapes the chains of love and joins the merchant marines where he faces pirates and becomes something of an international gigolo (though that’s not what he calls it). There are women and fortunes gained and lost, perils survived, great success and utter failures. There is no way to tell which parts of these hyperbolic stories are true, indeed there is no reason to believe that any of it is true—on the other hand, there’s no reason not to believe every single word of it either.

I’ve chosen to go with the latter.

Distributor: Wildcat Releasing
Cast: Melvin Van Peebles, Seth Austin, Paul Krasner, Scott Sortman and Mario Van Peebles
Director / Screenwriter/Producer: Melvin Van Peebles

Genre: Drama/Adventure
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 99 min.
Release date: August 21 NY

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