The Reinactors - a Sneak Peek

Imagine the opening scene of Midnight Cowboy. Now imagine that John Voight is in a Superman costume. And Ratso Rizzo is Marilyn Monroe. Surround them with a cast straight out of Pink Flamingos, and set it all to the soundtrack of a sweet 10-year-old German girl singing "Hotel California" This might give you some idea of what Dave Markey's long-anticipated film, The Reinactors, is like. In this documentary, Markey delves into the lives of the people who inhabit Grauman's Theater. You have surely seen them as you drive along Hollywood Boulevard, all dressed up in their costumes and posing with tourists for tips. And you have probably passed them by without a second thought.

I had heard the buzz on the Internet, but when I was able to attend a test screening of this movie last weekend, my mind was blown. Instead of just shallowly putting this subculture on display for comic value, Markey tries to get inside their heads to see what makes them tick. And inside their heads is not always the most comfortable place to be. Naturally, the comedy is unavoidable, although often unintentional, as various characters expose their petty gripes and delusions of grandeur. The film intentionally stays within the self-contained world of The Reinactors, never drifting off into commentary or clips. So essentially, you are seeing this movie through their eyes, as if you were one of them. Like any subculture, they have developed their own codes of conduct, and it is fascinating to watch the way they go about attempting to enforce cultural constraints on each other's behavior. There is a hierarchy, along with long-standing feuds, grudges and friendships.

The question the film asks, is what draws these people here? Sometimes it is as if they are in the grip of something like prostitution, working the streets, turning newcomers out, and collecting money from the tourists who are essentially their johns. Sometimes it seems more like a compulsion or an addiction. Some of them just cannot stay away no matter the consequence. Attention is their drug. The lure of fame just beyond their grasp is like a jones that can never be satisfied. They feed off of attention and devour it and scrabble for more.

But in the end, I think the real draw of Grauman's lies in those long-standing feuds, grudges and friendships. These are the bonds that keep them here. Each one of these people is in some way broken, damaged and disenfranchised. The Reinactors need this community of like-minded souls in order to survive.

(Video courtesy of We Got Power Films. The Reinactors final cut will be shown on the 2008 film festival circuit.)