Saturday, September 11, 2010
Winnebago Man is God#$%@ funny and revealing!
Jack Rebney is not an easy subject for a documentary. A former TV news director, Rebney later became an internet celebrity thanks to an infamous blooper reel from an industrial demo tape shot for Winnebago, in which he curses a blue streak and berates his crew during an extremely hot and fly ridden shooting day in Iowa, 1989. The tape was bootlegged endlessly and is now a YouTube staple. The problem is, Rebney doesn't exactly embrace the attention and interest.
But filmmaker Ben Steinbauer does and devotes his time and passion for this obscure viral video to make this revealing documentary about a man with a lot to say and a colorful way of saying it. In his attempt to track down (or stalk) Rebney, he discovers that he is living a reclusive life as a caretaker of a fishing resort in northern California. A symbolic contrast to the fast paced noise of the urban centres and high tech world. He agrees to be interviewed at his home and presents a calm, friendly and mysteriously low key version of himself. Steinbauer is disappointed. Where is the angry and profane man seen in that video? Can his subject sustain a feature length documentary after one brief and banal interview in which Rebney reveals almost nothing?
Ah, but there's a great twist. Steinbauer returns home and receives a surprise call from Rebney. He confesses that the nice, even tempered man Ben met was just an act. Rebney really is the man you see in the Winnebago tape: short fused and pissed off, but with eloquent vocabulary laced within the coarse language.
Steinbauer returns to Rebney's cabin and the film really begins. Ben and Jack become an unlikely duo as they argue over the value of discussing Jack's personal life and career. He would rather rant about the evils of Wal Mart and Dick Cheney than delve into his childhood or any other personal matter.
Winnebago Man sheds some often hilarious light on the cult of reluctant celebrity in the age of instant gratification. Rebney detests this part of the culture. He doesn't care for the internet whatsoever. At one point he refers to YouTube as "that fuckin' abysmal piece of shit tube" His modest house contains shelves of books you'd probably find in a university professor's office.
This character study displays a contradictory man; someone who seems to desire a soapbox for his anger (mostly political) but resists any on camera attention and often throws irritated fits towards Steinbauer, who wants his biography instead of a filmed diatribe of society and politics. There's some real tension in the battle of wits and words between the two. We don't know how this story will end because Jack Rebney may not want it fully told.
But he opens up enough for the filmmaker to show a sensitive side but he still retains his pessimistic and profanity filled grumpiness. Rebney is smart and funny enough to belong in front of the camera despite his insistence on privacy. This film perfectly captures this conflict. The F word will always be funny and fascinating but Jack Rebney certainly enhances it with his one of a kind character and personality.