Jun 13, 2011

Carny Talk

As a child, one of my favorite pastimes was tooling around on rides at various amusement parks and traveling carnivals. At some point in my early childhood, I began to take notice of the carnys who slavishly and grudgingly operated the rides. I was somewhat surprised that these individuals were in stark contrast to rides themselves, as they seemed hopelessly misanthropic, bitter, and – in some cases – quite violently vulgar. I also vaguely remember one incident as a child where an extremely obnoxious carny yelled at me and all the other kids who were walking through a room of distorted mirrors to “hurry up” as if we were a pack of feral dogs. By the time I was in high school, the mystical and fantastic appeal of amusements parks had worn thin, but I still attended them out of a sense of obligation to family tradition. During a summer vacation when I was in my late teens, a friend and I decided to ride a popular haunted house ride on an oceanfront boardwalk. While cruising through the moderately dilapidated haunted house, a gigantic plastic bat dropped from the ceiling and my curious friend innocently touched it. Before we knew what happened, a thoroughly exacerbated carny startled us by jumping out from amongst the dark shadows and said to my friend with an almost indecipherable slur, “how would you like it if I HIT YOU on the head!?!” Naturally, my friend and I thought the carny was a humorless sub-literate prick, but looking back on that event, it was indubitably a hilarious affair. Due to my countless carnival memories, I was reasonably delighted to receive a copy of Carny Talk: And Other Amazing Anecdotes starring Robert Williams and directed by Avant-garde documentary filmmaker Larry Wessel. In the documentary, ex-carny Robert Williams gives the viewer a one-man show where the cryptic-world of carnys is luridly and intimately exposed in a manner never seen before. 

 Immediately upon watching Carny Talk, I noticed that ex-carny Robert Williams somewhat spoke and looked like he could be the long lost brother of Jimmy Stewart. Of course, while Jimmy Stewart is regarded as one of Hollywood's greatest icons and a charmer loved by multiple generations of moviegoers, Robert Williams represents the darker and seedier side of lowbrow American entertainment that has been given next to nil credit by it's patronizing patrons. In Carny Talk, Robert Williams gives the ultimate inside story on his escapades as a carny libertine who adventurously lived life in the moment. Had I read Williams' anecdotes in a mere book, I would have probably found such stories mildly entertaining at best, as the main appeal of Carny Talk is Williams' unconventional brand of dirty barroom storytelling. If I saw Robert Williams randomly loitering on a city street, I would assume he is the kind of guy that picks up muscular shemale prostitutes on the weekends and spills his seed on the floors of adult movie theaters.  Williams seems like one of those rare individuals who can concoct an elaborate fictional story and have the listener believe it without question. Carny Talk was shot on gritty video (I assume Hi8), a dead format that I am quite comfortable with due to growing up on skateboard videos of the mid and late 1990s. Although some might be repelled by the gritty aesthetic qualities of Carny Talk, I found that the visuals accentuated Robert Williams’ surly and sordid stories. Over the past couple of days, I have been watching a number of Larry Wessel’s documentaries and I must admit that he has a keen eye for capturing unconventionally charismatic subjects.  Wessel undoubtedly has a talent for documenting subjects that would even scare Bavarian auteur Werner Herzog.  After all, Robert Williams is the kind of guy that would be interesting to share a dialogue with at a gas station, but not the kind of person that you would feel comfortable having in your home.

 If you’re the type of person that finds natural disasters appealing and receives solace in societal declension, Carny Talk is a film that you will most certainly fancy. While watching the documentary, the viewer becomes a voyeur in a forgotten world that is probably best left forgotten. Of course, after watching Carny Talk, one is not likely to forget Robert Williams’ candid carny tales, as his wickedly alluring personal stories are told with such a distinct swindler charm that the viewer can’t help but to like the man.  After all, one can't help but to respect a man who owns up to dropping dozens of stillborn fetuses on the doorstops of homes in a prissy bourgeois neighborhood. Unlike a lot of folks of his time, Williams did not shy away from subversive sex and criminal perverts, although he does seem rather repulsed by lesbian couples. After watching the film, I found myself contemplating about how many other real-life characters like Robert Williams have never had the opportunity to tell their stranger-than-fiction stories, thus one must commend the director for documenting an individual that Hollywood wouldn't even hire to clean their studio toilets. If you ever wanted to know what it feels like to be an active voyeur without the burden of having to serve jail time, Carny Talk will provide you with such a degrading yet extremely enthralling experience from the luxury of your own home.  For more info on Carny Talk, check out Larry Wessel's official website: Wesselmania.net

-Ty E


Mike Z said...

Robert is more than just a seedy ex-carny guy, y'know. He is a famous artist - you might be interested in his work if you googled him.

teddy crescendo said...

It would be great to hear your opinion on the 1980 cult item: Jodie Foster, Gary Busey, Robbie Robertson,: "CARNY".

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Carnivals are so ludicrously out-moded (just like vaginal penetration). By the way, i whole-heartedly agree with regards to the fact that the people who used to run circus`s, carnivals, sideshows, and funfairs were amongst the most loathsome, hateful, hideous, spiteful, and nauseatingly sickening people you could ever wish to encounter, its great to know that carnivals are essentially dead and buried because that means that all the scum that used to run and operate them are hopefully dead and buried as well.