The unflinching but unmocking documentary "Mule Skinner Blues" follows a mercurial retiree on his quest to make his own horror movie, with the assistance of his troubled but eager trailer-park neighbors.
By JOSHUA TANZER
Beanie Andrew is not exactly one of the great artistic geniuses of our time, but you can't deny he has a vision.
"I always wanted to go down in the mud and come back as a gorilla and scare the heck out of somebody," he explains. "Everybody's got something freaky about 'em. Mine just happens to be laying down in the mud."
|MULE SKINNER BLUES|
|Directed by: Stephen Earnhart.|
Produced by: Victoria Ford.
Featuring: Beanie Andrew, Steve Walker, Miss Jeanie, Larry Parrot, Ricky Lix, Annabelle Lea Usher..
Related links: Official site
Beanie is the subject of the documentary "Mule Skinner Blues," an unblinking and unmocking look at the residents of a Florida trailer park and their artistic aspirations. In this humble little community live a would-be filmmaker, a short-story writer, a shell-shocked songwriter, a fairly competent rock guitarist, a former New York costume designer with a storage locker full of costumes including, conveniently, a gorilla suit and a senior-citizen country balladeer who insists her voice gets better with schnapps.
Beanie, a semi-retired shrimp salesman and irrepressible local personality, gets the chance to fulfill his dream by making himself a movie, a 15-minute horror film involving jealous rivalries, guitar picking, a fatal crash, and a one-armed gorilla who rises from the mud. And it's not going to be necessary to go to Hollywood or New York to make this movie, the old-timer insists they've got all the talent they need right there in Mayport, Florida.|
And you can just about believe him on that. One of the good things about "Mule Skinner Blues" is its determination to take seriously the creativity of ordinary people who sing, play, write and act for the enjoyment of it and for the entertainment of the people around them. These people aren't world-class talents by any means (although casting agents might give sinister-faced musician Ricky Lix a second look as a movie thug), but they have the creative drive within and they make art that is meaningful for themselves and their audience. Beanie is a little impresario but he's a big believer in appreciating the art in your own neighborhood even if it isn't backed by a multimillion-dollar budget and so am I.
"Mule Skinner Blues" never feels like the kind of profoundly revealing experience that the best documentaries can be. But its subjects experience everyday moments of happiness and despair, friendship and loneliness, on an equal basis, and the movie captures those well. When the documentarians return to town for the premiere of Beanie's little film, we see what's ultimately become of the people we've gotten to know and it's a sobering view indeed. But the premiere is a triumphant moment for everyone involved we're glad to see them get such enjoyment from their mutual creation and from one another's company. After that, we know life is going to go on as before, with its daily ups and downs, but they'll always remember this moment in the sun.
|APRIL 12, 2002|
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