Beauty Day

Hey, I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed a documentary before; Beauty Day seems as good a place as any to start.  This one was the only film shown at the Dark Bridges film festival that was an honest to goodness 35mm print.  I gotta say, despite the fact that The Broadway Theatre went out and bought a new digital projector to show the other films, the difference between seeing a pristine, in-focus 35mm film print and the digital files being projected was night and day.  The movie looked gorgeous.

Beauty Day is about this dude Ralph Zavadil from St Catherine’s Ontario who is the true pioneer of stupid/disgusting low budget stunt comedy shows.  He was literally doing some of the same shit the Jackass guys are doing now in his local cable channel 10 show Cap’n Video back in the early 90’s.  Things like sliding down your roof in the middle of winter wearing nothing but a speedo, and snorting raw eggs up his nose and puking it out of his mouth, or making “gummy bears” out of white glue and hair and eating them, classy shit like that.  The title Beauty Day comes from him always saying “it’s going to be, a beauty day” in this hilarious east coast Canadian semi-retard voice before he does something like jump from a telephone pole into an empty tin shed.

The movie opens with the stunt that brought him the most fame (it was sold to Chinese game shows and shit like that and got him in the newspapers) was when he tried to leap from what appears to be a 20 foot tall telescoping ladder into his pool and instead lands on the concrete beside the pool breaking his neck.  Miraculously he didn’t get paralyzed, and he later reveals in the documentary that taking some ecstasy a friend gave him really helped with the healing process. The majority of the documentary follows Ralph, the real person behind his Cap’n Video alter ego, and tells the story of how and why he started doing the show until its unfortunate removal from the cable channel’s lineup and what he’s done since then.  The film’s third act focuses on Ralph revisiting his old gear and putting together a 20th Anniversary episode of Cap’n Video to try and get Channel 10 to put on the air as a one off special.

Throughout the documentary you meet Ralph’s friends and family and you get to see a bunch of clips from the original show.  It’s pretty damn entertaining stuff, and as a result of seeing the documentary I’m going to have to track down some copies of the old show.  It’s funny to see the guy’s mom talk about how she and her husband would watch the show and she’d hope that people didn’t realize that was her son lighting his cologne covered face on fire.  It was also pretty funny when she wasn’t surprised or heart broken when Ralph’s grow-op got busted.  She just says, “It was about time!”

Ralph actually got flown in for the festival, and listening to him in person I think the director of this movie really did an excellent job of capturing the essence of what Ralph is all about.  Basically he lives to make people laugh and to be free and he didn't do it for the fame. In fact he seemed more concerned with the documenatry doing well for the director than it being some sort of launching pad for him to restart his show or some other washed up celeb tactic like that.

When asked if he’d ever talked to the Jackass guys he didn’t seem bothered at all when they said they didn’t get any of their ideas from him, and he just assumed they were probably covering their asses legally (probably not an inaccurate assumption) and applauded them for being smart about it.  He seemed legitimately touched by the turn out and the audience applause the film got, so you felt that much better about enjoying the movie.  He seems like he’d be a really cool guy to hang out with, although it might take more than a few beers before I agreed to joining the official Cap'n Video club by snorting raw eggs.

The production values on the documentary were as high as any other documentary I've seen, and the makers obviously had access to some nice equipment. This isn't some sort of uber lo-fi deal, it has a really good narrative flow to it that makes it just as interesting as any movie. One thing that was kind of a funny ocntrast was the irony of how the documentary itself was probably made with cutting edge technology and in it Ralph talks about how he prefers to use his old VHS camcorder dubbing method to edit because it's what he knows.

A very interesting documentary about a very interesting guy and the people he touched along the way.  I recommend this one for documentary fans and even people who don’t normally watch them but would be interested in learning about a person who puts himself in danger and through so pain just to make other people laugh, without any desire for fame or riches. Ralph says it in the documentary, he merely wanted the freedom to be able to do what he wants to do with his life and not live as a wage slave.  A really great film, check it out!