Saturday, September 28, 2013

Living Dolls Is A Gem

Awhile back at a journalism class I was teaching a student asked me for a definition of "Counter Programming".
Well. the best example I can think of is the fine new documentary Living Dolls which premieres on Global Saturday October 5 at 9 p.m.
See, Saturday nights on Canadian TV is owned by CBC's NHL hockey.
And there are no American series for Global to buy and simulcast --U.S. networks have virtually given up on low rated Saturday nights.
Which means Global is showing Canadian documentaries.
Living Dolls really works on several levels.
On the surface filmmaker  Maureen Judge has made a pleasant  enough documentary about four obsessive doll collectors. Three of them are men. All four collectors are adults.
But Judge digs deeper than that and this hour turns introspective. The end results are often sad and deeply moving.
I'm not sure how she settled on her four subjects but I'm sure it must have taken some time to get the right four.
Then there's her camera technique --she gets the four to comfortably address the camera when talking about their private lives --obviously the questions Judge has thrown at them have been edited out. The revelations that flow forth are often startling admissions of loneliness and the compulsion to find companionship with their dolls.
On the surface all four seem "normal".
David is a pleasant enough man first glimpsed on the Pennsylvania turnpike. In his early sixties he is traveling with a gorgeous companion Bianca.
Everything about him seems quite unremarkable. He is soft spoken and Bianca never speaks --that's because she is a human sized doll. And, yes, they apparently have sexual relations of a sort.
David is dashing to the annual Doll Lovers convention to mingle with other doll collectors. His wife never appears on camera but David assures us she does not feel at all jealous of his real love.
Then there's Debbie who is a twentysomething British mom with two adorable children. Her husband seems nice too but laments Debbie's doll collecting compulsion which means she neglects him and their two young children. They live in semi-poverty because all their money seems to go into buying new frocks for the dolls.
Mike is a grown up still living with his parents --his partner has also moved in. Mike collects only Barbie dolls and has his own museum. Too busy with his collecting he can only afford the time for a part time job. He says he kept his doll collecting a secret as a boy for fear he would be outed as gay.
The most interesting is Mike who collects and refurbishes robotic dolls --complete with private parts. Disheveled and rambling Mike is summed by by a friend of over 40 years as both eccentric and possessing sparks of genius. But he lives in squalor surrounded by thousands of robot dolls he struggles to repair.
Judge has this ability to bond with her subjects, accepting them for what they are. Living Dolls is filled with revelatory moments and well worth taking an hour away from hockey to enjoy its quiet . reflective charm.
MY RATING: ***1/2.

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