First-time filmmaker Luis Fernandez de la Reguera's documentary portrait of his longtime friend, actor-comedian-drug dealer-roadie-performance artist Rockets Redglare, who died in 2001 as the age of 51, never makes a convincing argument that Redglare was more than an eccentric East Village hanger-on who caught some lucky breaks. Born Michael Morra in 1949, Redglare's mother was a 15-year-old heroin addict; he grew up in Brooklyn and Long Island in an atmosphere of chaos and potential violence. Baby Michael was born addicted he says nurses weaned him off heroin by adding a little opiate to his formula and his childhood memories run to the bizarrely sordid. The first time his mother ever made French toast, he recalls, his father and uncle killed a man in the kitchen. He appeared in films ranging from STARNGER THAN PARADISE (1984) and DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN (1985) to 1996's BASQUIAT, in which he played himself, to ANIMAL FACTORY (2000). De la Reguera interviews many of Redglare's collaborators, including actors Willem Dafoe, Steve Buscemi and Matt Dillon, painter Julian Schnabel and director Jim Jarmusch; all speak kindly of Redglare without actually saying much about his meager accomplishments. Redglare battled an ongoing drug problem and struggled with his weight, sometimes ballooning to some 600 pounds; the only real surprise about his death, the result of liver and kidney failure, complicated by cirrhosis and hepatitis C, is that it didn't happen sooner. Ultimately, De la Reguera's film is interesting primarily for the moments when it captures a sense of the thriving arts scene in Manhattan's East Village during the 1980s, before gentrification transformed the once seedy neighborhood into an urban mall.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: NR
- Review: First-time filmmaker Luis Fernandez de la Reguera's documentary portrait of his longtime friend, actor-comedian-drug dealer-roadie-performance artist Rockets Redglare, who died in 2001 as the age of 51, never makes a convincing argument that Redglare was m… (more)