After having explored George Lucas, David Lynch, Hitchcock, and even William Friedkin in earlier documentaries, Alexandre O. Phillippe turns his consideration in direction of an unlikely topic, William Shatner, in his latest movie, “You Can Name Me Invoice.” Framed round a free-associative dialog with the famed actor, Phillipe’s new documentary may be catnip for any Trekkie but additionally represents one thing of a regression after the filmmaker’s probing “Lynch/Oz” final yr.
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As an alternative, “You Can Name Me Invoice” is consultant of a number of different hagiographic documentaries that crop up yearly that purport to make clear a determine however actually act as superficial monologues by which the topic spins a specific sort of narrative about their life and profession. At 91 years outdated, with a number of memoirs and a lifetime within the highlight, Shatner’s life isn’t precisely a thriller, so no matter novelty comes from having him inform the story of his upbringing or first time taking part in Henry V (as Christopher Plummer’s understudy, no much less), is finally subtle.
Organized into chapters, “You Can Name Me Invoice” begins with a John Muir quote: “The clearest approach into the Universe is thru a forest wilderness.” This units up an attention-grabbing parallel between Shatner’s TV persona because the relentless explorer Kirk in “Star Trek” and his more moderen flip in direction of conservation. But, that thread isn’t actually adopted via, with the movie settling right into a extra linear transfer from Shatner’s childhood onwards.
As he discusses his life, Phillipe freely consists of dwelling images and clips from his numerous exhibits and flicks. In fact, we get numerous “Star Trek” and “The Twilight Zone,” in addition to his stand-up comedy and musical performances. These montages primarily serve to underline no matter theme a given chapter explores — “Love, Loss of life, and Horses,” “Masks,” and many others. At the beginning, it’s a compelling construction, however because the movie wears on (and the chapters pile up), the organizational scheme begins to learn extra as a approach for Philippe to try to make sense of Shatner’s rambling associations.
By ceding the ground to Shatner, the movie misses the kitschy elements related together with his physique of labor. Anybody who has listened to a Shatner album, or seen his talks at conventions, understands that Shatner’s persona has at all times straddled self-seriousness and figuring out self-mockery; it’s what made his efficiency as Denny Crane in “Boston Authorized” so memorable. Right here, nevertheless, the movie leans extra in direction of the previous, with Shatner describing his work as Kirk and the Priceline Negotiator with equal reverence.
Additional, the movie appears unwilling to maneuver past the scope of its titular topic. There’s little or no right here about his sophisticated friendship with Leonard Nimoy or his decades-long feud with George Takei. There’s a quick interlude about his journey aboard Bezos’s Blue Origin rocket in 2021, however much less about his relationship to area journey and NASA. The movie solely exhibits what Shatner is fascinated about speaking about, leaving a substantial chunk of his life out. Clearly, Shatner is utilizing the movie as a approach of writing a extra full narrative of his life. Nonetheless, the movie fully eschews outdoors context by focusing so singularly on him.
“You Can Name Me Invoice” isn’t a travesty; listening to Shatner talk about his life is at all times fascinating. However as a substitute, the movie’s a missed alternative to unpack one of many extra enigmatic figures in our public consciousness. Shatner’s profession has continually whiplashed between excessive and low, well-liked and avant-garde (severely, hearken to his albums). His physique of labor deserves the identical sort of therapy as Phillipe’s different documentaries.
The filmmaker’s most attention-grabbing work has usually used the documentary kind as a sort of prolonged literary evaluation, both within the type of juxtaposition (as with “Lynch/OZ”) or shut studying (with “78/52: Hitchcock’s Bathe Scene”). It’s odd, then, that Phillipe would revert to such a airtight method to somebody who’s so well-known for his outsized public persona. What we get right here is just too attuned to Shatner’s recursive narration that all the pieces bleeds collectively even with Phillipe’s chaptering. [C]
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