Over the past few years I have been quietly helping my friend, the uber-talented filmmaker Rob Christopher (PAUSE OF THE CLOCK), produce the documentary ROY’S WORLD: BARRY GIFFORD’S CHICAGO. It is the only film I have produced that I didn’t also direct and, because my contributions have not been of the creative variety (my role was strictly limited to helping Rob overcome the various financial and logistical hurdles that every independent filmmaker faces), I can honestly say that I think it is a masterpiece. My sole reasons for agreeing to work on the film were 1) I am a great admirer of Barry Gifford (WILD AT HEART) as a writer and 2) I knew that Rob would be creating a true work of cinema, one whose aesthetic value would demand that it be seen on a large screen in order to be appreciated, in stark contrast to most of the works of “talking heads”-video journalism that pass for documentaries these days. When Rob first explained the concept of ROY’S WORLD to me, I instantly grasped that, like Dziga Vertov’s MAN WITH THE MOVIE CAMERA, he was crafting a non-fiction film that would have multiple structures in place simultaneously and that the result would work on about five different levels.
Now that I have finally seen it, I can confirm it is possible to enjoy the movie on its most basic level: as a fascinating and detailed portrait of a vanished Chicago from the era immediately after World War II through the early years of Richard J. Daley’s political machine. But dig a little deeper and it’s possible to see that it also functions as an overarching depiction of one boy’s coming-of-age story during that time; an illustration of a series of separate stories brilliantly performed by a trio of well-known actors (Willem Dafoe, Matt Dillon and Lili Taylor); an essay on how a writer uses the circumstances of his upbringing as the raw material for creating narrative fiction; and an experimental work that combines archival footage with animated sequences, and audio of actors’ voices and excerpts from an interview with Barry with an original score by master vibraphonist Jason Adesiewicz, to create a rich tapestry of image and sound. It is, in the truest sense, a “jazz movie,” one whose contrapuntal rhythms and ironic juxtapositions I hope will charm and haunt you as profoundly as they have me.
News of the World Premiere of ROY’S WORLD will be announced soon. In the meantime, you can watch the trailer below: