Documentaries about making movies can sometimes be as good as the movies themselves, enriching our understanding of the creative process and deepening our love of the original movie. For instance Memory: The Origins of Alien deep dives into the universe’s most famous Xenomorph and torturous process of gestation which brought the classic film to the screen. Featuring behind the scenes footage as well as numerous talking heads, the movie Alien comes alive as both a document of its time and a timeless classic that speaks to our deepest concerns.
Here are five other movies that talk about movies:
78/52: HITCHCOCK’S SHOWER SCENE – Before Memory, director Alexandre O. Phillipe made 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene, a fascinatingly meticulous examination of Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic shower scene from his 1960 shocker Psycho. Using an array of talking heads and showing the impact of the scene on the whole picture and also on cinema going as a whole, with the invention of a new genre and a new rigidity when it came to film start times,Phillipe’s film goes way beyond the 78 shots and 52 cuts that he convincingly argues changed cinema forever.
AMERICAN MOVIE – Here is undoubtedly a documentary which is a better movie than the movie which it is describing. Director Chris Smith follows Wisconsin filmmaker Mark Borchardt as he pursues his dream to make his own horror movie. Spanning over two years, Mark goes through crisis after crisis with his enthusiasm and exasperation battling for dominance, aided and abetted by his best buddy Mike Schank. It is a hilarious and surprisingly moving portrait of a passion project gone off the rails, which still speaks to the power of having a dream and wanting to fulfil a vision.
HEARTS OF DARKNESS – A FILMMAKER’S APOCALYPSE – Following the success of The Godfather, bearded egotist Francis Ford Coppola took over a project originally destined for George Lucas. An adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now proved a logistical and emotional nightmare with Martin Sheen suffering a near fatal heart attack, typhoons and a tiger whose trainer sported some terrible scars. Coppola’s wife Eleanor Coppola filmed tons of behind the scenes footage and created a vision of just how tenuous and crazy the world of the film reflected its subject matter: Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse.
THE MADNESS OF MAX – In making Mad Max two Australian filmmakers George Miller and Bryon Kennedy shot a cult classic for just $400,000. It would go on to make over $100 million at the box office and change Australian cinema. The Madness of Max documents the frankly dangerous and wonderful amateurish approach of the film with talking head interviews from all involved and some prize anecdotes. With Mad Max: Fury Road giving a turbo-drive impetus to the franchise, it’s good to go back to the down and dirty beginnings and the madness that inspired it all.
Watch The Madness of Max on CHILI now
MY LIFE DIRECTED BY NICOLAS WINDING REFN – As with Heart of Darkness, My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn offers a spouse’s point of view to her husband’s obsessive work. Filmed by Liv Corfixen in Thailand during the making of Only God Forgives, it shows Refn struggling with a follow up to Drive which he is determined won’t simply be a Drive 2. It is refreshingly clear-eyed about Refn. Whereas Eleanor Coppola obviously admires her husband, here Corfixen has a far more critical eye and Refn himself comes across as sometimes inspired but frequently self-involved and ridiculous.