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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Biker Fox is a character ... whatever that means
A documentary partially financed by its subject, Biker Fox sometimes resembles edgily comic docs like Chicken Ranch or Grey Gardens, films that make the privilege of being a protagonist seem fraught and exploitative to an audience that watches the subject think himself king for a day. A salesman of used muscle cars parts in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Biker Fox recently discovered the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle and daily exercise, specifically riding his BMX around town. With camera work so inexpert and behavior so absurd you can't classify this as a serious documentary or a mockumentary (inadvertently, it can't help but be both), part of the joy of this film is how impossible it is to put it in a box. Built for fame on the cult circuit, this film could score huge numbers on DVD, where word of mouth and person-to-person circulation could make it a phenomenon of considerable proportions.
From the first moments, both the film and the protagonist are impossible to categorize. Biker Fox addresses the camera as if on a cooking show: he's barbecuing burgers and hot dogs (which he intermittently calls "boogers and dogs") and in the patchy light he looks like he might be wearing a bad wig (it's not a wig). Repeatedly we see things that resemble fraudulence or falsehood but aren't quite. Biker looks in the mirror and preaches personal affirmations to his image about being a star, random feral animals wander up to and into his home, he yells at his customers over the phone: it's not until act three that you stop asking "is this guy for real?" Taking sojourns into Oprah-styled, self-help lecture/confessional monologue, Biker explains that he was previously overweight and went "number two a lot and had pain in all my orifices" and it's the newfound joy he has for cycling and clean living that's inspiring his malformed bits of commonsense wisdom (even though it's not all sense). He calls himself "Gay-Go-Lucky" and we can't be sure if it's another of his misused vocab flubs or if he's performing a brand of masculinity that's as outré and over-the-top as High Drag. He sits outside his garage for countless hours, feeding the resident raccoons dog kibble and whispering kindnesses about the beauty of God's Creatures via voice-over, meanwhile the raccoons eat from his hand and he screams "OW!" and "Shit that's sharp!" as the animals grab the kibble from him a little too hard. Surrounded by the raccoons he idealizes, Herzog's words about Timothy Treadwell seem close in memory. Though nothing as dire as Treadwell, this guy is documentary gold.
Biker Fox (aka Frank Paul DeLarzalere) is an Internet personality and a reported troll. Biker Fox, the movie that represents him, is an ass-backward masterpiece. The film vacillates from laughable to austere without a breath between. Though it makes no stabs at irony, the movie will be most attractive to crowds who love and/or tolerate that quality in their media, but what sets it apart is precisely the fact it operates so far outside of the predictable tongue-in-cheek. Biker Fox (man and/or film) operates in an atmosphere all its own. Performance does play a part: this is not Frank Paul DeLarzalere this is Biker Fox. Which of the two possesses the anger issues that get him arrested multiple times in the dour third act is anyone's guess. Director Jeremy Lamberton, who also ran camera on Winnebago Man, handed the camera over to Biker Fox a lot, in fact it seems like the footage we see is principally the product of Biker Fox or his helmet-cam. The poverty of this footage (deliberate or otherwise) is part of why the film's unclassifiable; it makes the film appear, at face value, indistinguishable from whatever crap home movie Biker might make of himself in the interest of extended YouTube fame, and who says the film won't be used for those purposes anyway? The editing, however, belies the surface amateurishness. Ultimately, the joy/suffering of Biker Fox revolves around our orientation to the man: Do we think he's a parody or is he "the real thing?" "Are we laughing with him or laughing at him? Ultimately, for as much as Biker Fox is unclassifiable, its audience sure seems to be.
Contact: Jeremy Lamberton firstname.lastname@example.org Director: Jeremy Lamberton Producer: Todd Lincoln Genre: Documentary Rating: Unrated Running time: 90 min Release date: September 10 NY
Expecting the worse, i.e. old, shaky, hand-held rough cut, random
clips, a sellout crowd of over 300 fans were treated to a real must-see
gem at the Tulsa premiere, 17 July 2010. In sweltering heat, Fox
himself was on hand for the de rigueur photo opps, before the movie,
shown at AMC 20.
Opening with a short scene of Biker cooking hamburgers, hot dogs, and french fries, then proceeding to throw them all away, with the admonishment not to partake, this reviewer braced mightily for the most embarrassing, absolute worse of what Tulsa filmmaking has to offer, sure to be a major setback with another in a long-line of half-baked third-coast efforts.
Yes, there are random, senseless scenes. At least on first brush. There's the occasional profanity. But, apart from the ridiculous spandex, booty shakes, and Dumb and Dumber-esqe vibe, it was difficult not to laugh, belly-busting out loud, amidst serious underlying ruminations on love, life, and its first cousin, death.
As the documentary draws viewers into Biker's "weird" world, what became apparent was the need for an antagonist, good vs. evil, the killer app to make the whole 86 minutes of total running time mesh into some semblance of coherent narrative.
What antagonist would be the perfect foil to a protagonist who: 1) feeds raccoons; 2) front-flips from bicycles; and, 3) prays like a contrite, lonely little boy seeking protection?
At the requisite Q&A session, producer Jeremy Lamberton relates the originally conceived film was planned to be a long succession of random clips from years past. Basically, a very expensive home movie.
But, all that quickly and unexpectedly changed. The perfect killer app, the most ideal antagonist, emerges as a dastardly dangerous Tulsa Police officer. Who knew?!
Without Tulsa Police Officer Timothy J. Pike beating Biker for no good reason, and arresting him on bogus trumped up charges, the film would have been just a banal barrage of boring clips. Unwittingly, Pike MADE this doc work. Maybe he should receive film credits, if not residuals? Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.
Anyone who participated in the Critical Mass of violent years past will totally appreciate the strange predicament of an out-of-control cop, with a prime directive mission to rid the world of cyclists from the public roadways versus ONE lone, recalcitrant cyclist, doing nothing more than just riding his bicycle. So what if there's some booty shaking in front of virgin eyes stuck in cages on four wheels, at the red light?
Pike changed Biker from a ridiculous caricature into a human being to care about, even if he is in way-over-the-top spandex, showing more than a nun would care to see. Who could forget the haunting voice-over on raccoons being taunted in front of chroma?
Cutter Elvis Ripley is due major credit, for this and many other poignant moments of raw humanity at war with itself. Bill LaFortune, former Tulsa Mayor, in his real life role as counsel for the defense, gave a spot-on legal analysis of bicycle laws. No self-respecting judge or prosecuting attorney on criminal dockets, more interested in justice than votes, should miss it.
So, what's the spoiler? For all his craziness, the weirdness we all love to laugh at on the website, and the full frontal bike flips, Fox is a Billy Mays type pitch guy, worthy of way-over-the-top, blaring late night buy-here, pay-here used car commercials. This reviewer, for one, has vowed not to wear his watch to bed to check the time in the middle of the night.
The film should play well on the festival circuit, with the truly indie aficionados for years to come. If the production does recoup its budget, estimated at somewhere south of 50G, IFC is the most likely benefactor/patron to propel it to the next level: Campy B-movie icon. Maybe it will achieve the lofty status of perennial favorites, such as Eraserhead, Plan 9 From Outer Space, or maybe, gasp, Rocky Horror? Naaaaaaaaaah. Not a chance. Not in a million years.
9 out of 10. Fox and crew stuck to the traditional distributor pay-out business model. They TOTALLY missed key product placement opportunities, that could have made bank, from the get-go, with, or without that all- mighty, all-knowing deity oracle: the sugar daddy distributor with pocket change to burn for high-risk flyers. Too bad it will be difficult for the sequel to be as entertaining.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
By John Anderson
Human oddities, an entertainment staple since Barnum, are usually limited to "American Idol" these days, but Frank P. DeLarzelere III -- a.k.a. Biker Fox -- is a genuinely singular personality: a health-advocating personification of unresolved anger, public advocate of personal privacy, antagonist of civil authority and muscle-car parts supplier to the southwestern United States. As the subject of Jeremy Lamberton's protracted but generally engaging "Biker Fox," he's unforgettable, even if the docu likely will generate limited appeal while pedaling its way around the festival circuit.
First-person verite is kind of a contradiction, but when Lamberton hands the camera off to the fantastic Mr. Fox, that's what we get. The subject pontificates -- not quite tongue-in-cheek -- about the importance of healthful diet and exercise (when he adopted his current regime of long-distance biking and no fried foods, he lost 90 pounds, we're told). He is, we are also told, the first and only person to do a front flip on a mountain bike (stunts are limited to the opening credits, accompanied by Queen's "Bicycle Race".)
To call him aggressive, even when he's filming alone, would be a grotesque understatement, and Biker Fox's run-ins with the law seem to attest to a hunger for confrontation -- even if the cops seem easily baited by Fox's persona and patented look (tight, loud, branded T-shirts; Spandex biker shorts; a dangling fringe of curls circling the outskirts of his otherwise hairless skull). This is Tulsa, after all.
For all the time we spend with the man, "Biker Fox" is a performance piece, from which auds will have to draw their own conclusions. He's an animal nut -- in one of the movie's two more memorable sequences, he starts feeding one wild raccoon by hand, and a few cuts later at least 20 raccoons have filled the frame. (The other scene also features a raccoon, one that leaps ferociously at the camera while we listen to a Biker rant).
The man has no personal relationships we can detect, outside of the few people who work for him and the car-parts customers he frequently abuses on the phone. His past is an enigma, and the basis of his anger, which he admits to, is a secret. Without some kind of insight into what makes Biker Fox who he is, it's all a bit shallow, if frequently entertaining.
Production values are raggedy, save for the sound, which is excellent. And rough edges are not out of line with the tone of the piece.
Camera (color), Lamberton, Biker Fox; editors, Lamberton, Elvis Ripley; music supervisor, Peymon Maskan; sound designer, Ripley. Reviewed at Slamdance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 24, 2010. Running time: 88 MIN.
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