Sunday, March 5, 2017

THE CRINGE VERITE OF RUN RUN IT'S HIM


In the first few minutes of the autobiographical documentary Run Run It’s Him, a female friend attempts to put director Matt Pollack’s early lack of luck with the opposite sex into perspective.

“I think the major problem”, she explains, “was that, whatever investment you had in the idea of yourself as being not that kind of a guy… actually blinded you to the attentions that were being paid to you.”

Nonplussed, Pollack insists that the apparently overnight blossoming of girls into women that took place during junior high – not to mention his own suddenly rampaging hormones – caught him totally off guard. Why was he suddenly sinking when swimming came so naturally to everyone around him? Why did it feel as though his friends and classmates were all reading from a rule book to which he did not have access?

“What was the move?” he asks, a desperate edge in his voice. “What move was I missing?”

Her response is blunt: “Any move, I think, is the answer.”

Too little, too late, as the saying goes. By the time Pollack worked up the courage to quiz his female friends about the facts of life on camera, he’d long since made a strategic retreat into the fantasy world of pornography. Did an early introduction to its easy pleasures play a role in his delayed sexual development? Pollack decided to make Run Run It’s Him as an attempt to understand the negative impact that this addiction has had on his life.

At this early point, the unsympathetic viewer might be tempted to grumble that Pollack’s complaints serve as relatively thin grist for his documentarian’s mill. So he didn’t get laid until his early 20’s… so what? A healthy, handsome, intelligent young man from a relatively happy, middle class family, he appears to have been dealt a rather generous hand in life. There are people starving in Africa, you know, so what right does Pollack – with his First World problems – have to gripe?

The answer, of course, is that he has every right, just so long as the end result is worth watching. And Run Run It’s Him – this hand-crafted, ultra-low-fi, painfully honest and genuinely hilarious slice of cinematic self-vivisection - is a film well worth watching.

Shot over a seven-year span by Pollack and his cinematic wingman, Jamie PopowichRun Run It’s Him is a sprawling epic that succeeds in achieving an almost microscopic intimacy. This is, at times, squirm inducing… especially for the friends, exes, and family members that Pollack buttonholes into being interviewed onscreen.

From Pollack’s suburban school days, to his university years on the East Coast, to his ceaseless quest for pornographic novelty in the seediest corners of Toronto, vast spans of time and territory are covered – much of it on foot. Former girlfriends provide occasionally bewildering accounts about their time together. A sympathetic porn shop clerk offers surprisingly heartfelt and philosophical advice. Pollack’s parents, clueless and grim, seem like they’d rather be anywhere but on camera being interrogated by their over-sharing son.

In one of the film’s comedic high points, Pollack decides to deal with the unwieldy stacks of VHS tapes that have accumulated in every corner of his modest bachelor flat by keeping a “porn log” so that he might easily find his favorite scenes. In another, some of Pollack’s platonic female friends are made to watch a selection of these scenes, and the resulting footage is absolutely priceless.

Because Run Run It’s Him was so long in the making, it gives us a chance to observe a young filmmaker finding his voice. What starts out as a somewhat crude and lewd exercise in willfully obdurate self-denigration evolves into a moving, incisive document of self-exploration worthy of Pollack’s literary hero, Frederick Exley, author of the cult classic autobiographical novel A Fan’s Notes.

Run Run It’s Him isn't just the story of one man’s porn addiction. That’s the stuff of DVD cover blurbs and bullet reviews. This is a film about universal problems, such as the need for physical intimacy and the fear of rejection. It’s about spending so much time and mental energy worrying about not living up to your potential that it actually becomes one of the main reasons why you fail to live up to your potential.

It’s also about the inherent dangers lurking behind the deceptively benign façade of escapist procrastination, illustrating how easy it is to get lost in the labyrinths of minutia that make up our culture’s obsessions, whether it be video games, Star Trek fandom, collecting records, or comic books, or yes, even keeping detailed logs of one’s favorite masturbation fodder. In this respect, Pollack’s notebooks are like Jack Torrance’s repetitive manuscript in The Shining. “All wank and no game makes Matt a lonely boy.”

It’s all escapism, living the life of the mind at the cost of living life, itself. It’s a trap and a poor substitute, creating feedback loops of loneliness and alienation that lead you to habits that can only serve to further isolate and alienate you from your peers. Thankfully, Run Run It’s Him picks up steam, and a defiant head of optimism, as it builds towards its gloriously upbeat – and completely unexpected – climax.

You can purchase a digital copy of Run Run It’s Him from Pollack’s website for a measly ten bucks. It would be a steal at twice the price.

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