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Michael S. Parker,
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"Confessions of a Superhero" chronicles the lives of four mortal men and women who work as characters on the sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard. This feature length documentary explores the fascination, obsession, and allure of fame through the eyes of these very unique people struggling to make it in Tinseltown. Written by
A glimpse of a VERY different world (+ some additional viewing recs)
I rented this doc after reading about it on the blog of a former Hollywood Blvd "character" (you can catch a glimpse of her as "Fiona," the princess from "Shrek," early in the film). This woman made life on the strip sound bizarre, fun, surreal, heartbreaking, beautiful, life-changing, dramatic...and this film backed up her claims. Most of us, as tourists, don't give a second thought to the costumed characters who pose for photos in the hope of getting tips, but once you see this film, that will change.
As the other reviews indicate, the main thrust of the story here centres around four of the most popular characters that haunt the Mann: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and The Hulk. Among the many things I wasn't expecting was how well these four performers seem to know each other; I guess I hadn't thought about how much bonding goes on when you're braving the crowds of tourists for several hours a day. It's interesting to see the filmmaker allow each performer to opine about the others, in addition to providing their own backstory and their reasons for how and why they ended up in a superhero costume.
The film is funny, touching, sad and eye-opening. I can't think of any demographic who wouldn't find these people and their lives - so different from what most of us know! - interesting to watch. The fact that the viewer gets emotionally invested in these characters' stories is a testament not only to the film but to the people themselves.
There are also some genuine surprises about the off-the-street lives of the four players, ranging from Superman's story about his movie star mom to the sordid pasts (violence, drug use, marital trouble, homelessness and more) they're all trying to escape. It's equal parts tragic and hopeful.
If you enjoyed this one, the same blog source who alerted me to its existence also recommended two others: "The Reinactors" (dir. David Markey), and "The Ambassadors Of Hollywood" (dir. Archie Gips & Matthew Hunt). Both apparently feature more of the Superman we met in "Confessions..." and also revisit the others, as well as introducing us to a few (like Jack Sparrow, Chewbacca and Elmo) of whom we only caught a glimpse this time around. I'm keeping an eye out for both documentaries, as "Confessions..." was decidedly compelling enough to make me want to know more about the folks behind the masks. See it for yourself and I suspect you'll agree.
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