TIFF 2012 Review: LUNARCY!

Jason Gorber, Featured Critic
Lunarcy! is one of those delightful character piece documentaries, akin to where Errol Morris will go down to some swampy Florida town and meet totally unique, bizarre and obsessive individuals and put them on screen for our edification.

Director Simon Ennis' interest is in those interested in/obsessed with that giant orb that dominates our night sky. We meet astronauts, entrepreneurs, dreamers and schemers, a series of encounters that add up to quite a fun visit with a subsection of our culture.

The film is dominated by one particularly engaging character, Christopher Carson. Part zealot, part Don Quixote, we see him as he tries valiantly to gain support for his plan to become the first permanent resident on the Moon.

Of course, Christopher's ideas come across and both naive and preposterous, but there's such earnestness in his quest that it becomes a goal you want to support. It may be hard to take seriously a man in a reflex blue vest covered in pins, but if it weren't for mad dreamers like him we'd never have visited the Moon in the first place.

Speaking of actually having been there, Ennis tracks down Alan Bean, a man who actually walked on the lunar surface. There have been other documentaries that have focused on this spaceman's second career as a painter (Bean incorporates moondust culled from his uniform into his works!), but his inclusion in a film aside those that are slightly less grounded with their lunar obsessions is actually quite effective. The encounter between Carson and Bean in particular is a wonderful moment indeed.

Another strong character is Dennis Hope, pioneer in lunar real estate sales. The man has literally made millions of dollars selling acre plots on the surface of the moon (Hope claims acting in accordance with UN treaties!), finding buyers throughout the world, including several US presidents. Hope's own cynical delusions are a stark contrast to Carson's own ambitions - one is exploitative, the other most ludicrously optimistic - but each has an undeniable personal connection to the celestial body circling our planet.

Ennis' film doesn't focus on any whackjobs who spends their time spewing conspiracy theories and the like. At the Q&A at the TIFF screening, Ennis admitted that he spoke to some of them (including Bart Sibrel, the douchebag that Buzz Aldrin punched to the delight of millions), but (wisely) decided to drop any inclusion of these idiots.

Ennis does touch on historical lunar hoaxes, including the 1830's era New York Sun's announcement regarding Moon based Man-bats. The film is playful with these stories, often highlighting a given point through stark, white-on-black, Kubrickian/Futura titling that shows the filmmaker winking at the audience. Ennis never overplays this technique, so it's always a welcome moment when the film provides this kind of sardonic commentary without necessarily explicitly judging the participants.

Ennis' motley crew of lunar lunatics make for an entertaining doc, their stories well told, the documentary shot well and edited with precision. I thing a double bill screening of Lunarcy! with William Karel's meta-documentary Dark Side of the Moon (a film that takes out-of-context interviews to tell the lie about Kubrick's involvement in a lunar landing conspiracy) would make for quite a magical evening of moon-themed craziness.

The film lives up to the exclamation mark that Ennis cheekily includes in his title, it's a wide-eyed movie about benign obsessions and other follies. Well made, well told, Lunarcy! and its band of loonies makes for quite an entertaining documentary.
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