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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

This week at SFC: Tyson

BUILDING 7
Fernandes Industrial Centre
Eastern Main Road
Laventille
PORT OF SPAIN



We are back and back in our old back space!!!
STUDIOFILMCLUB is located in the back studio space of building 7. Last staircase...

Our screenings are FREE and all are welcome.
Thursday May 28 th
Start time 8:15pm
Doors open 7:30pm

TYSON (James Toback/USA/2009/90')


Love him or hate him, Mike Tyson is inarguably one of popular culture’s most fascinating figures. In this riveting documentary portrait of the controversial boxer, filmmaker and friend James Toback... Love him or hate him, Mike Tyson is inarguably one of popular culture’s most fascinating figures. In this riveting documentary portrait of the controversial boxer, filmmaker and friend James Toback lets Tyson tell his own volatile story. It all started in the Brooklyn neighborhood, where Tyson was picked on and beaten up as a youngster. But when he turned his fear into anger, he realized that his fists had the ferocity to frighten everyone around him. As a teenager, Tyson moved upstate to live with trainer Cus D’Amato, who became the devoted and compassionate father figure he never had. This support helped Tyson develop the strength and focus needed to become a devastating champion inside the ring. But when D’Amato died, something inside Tyson died too.. As Tyson speaks openly about the ups and downs in his tumultuous life alternating between moments of sincere introspection and animalistic rage Toback employs a split-screen approach to further emphasize this. Mixed into this talking-head monologue is striking archival footage that shows Tyson in his prime, when he was one of the most feared and idolized athletes on the planet. TYSON is an appropriately subjective journey into the mind of a massively complicated man.




Hard Knocks by David Denby

The spectacle of a savage fight, however ineptly done or digitally enhanced, brings one back to a climactic moment in James Toback’s documentary “Tyson,” a portrait of a boxer once advertised as “the baddest man on the planet.” It was in November, 1996, that Mike Tyson, then the W.B.A. heavyweight champion, got head-butted by the challenger, Evander Holyfield—a blow that opened a cut over Tyson’s eye and led to a T.K.O. victory for Holyfield. My inexpert view is that the head-butt was accidental. But, seven months later, the men fought again, and Holyfield, the taller of the two, leaned over and head-butted Tyson once more. It all happened very quickly, but this time to me the act looked calculated. Tyson certainly thought so, and famously and disastrously went berserk, biting Holyfield first on one ear and then on the other, losing the match, his boxing license, and three million dollars in fines. Confirming the reputation as a semi-psychotic thug he had earned a few years earlier, with a conviction for rape, Tyson hurled himself farther down a spiral of disgrace from which he has never recovered. He behaved abominably—it was an iconic moment in all the wrong ways. At the time, however, the extreme contempt that many sportswriters and fans poured on him felt a little disingenuous. Professional boxing is defined by an elaborate set of regulations and traditions designed to channel violence into craft, aggression into honor. Tyson, flouting all these protocols and baring his teeth in an act that evoked cannibalism, demonstrated what the sport was really about for him—dominance, pain, and survival. Caught up in his own sense of betrayal (the referees didn’t call a foul against Holyfield in either fight), he inadvertently reminded many people of something that they may not have been eager to admit—that they were drawn to the game in the first place by the spectacle of blood. Movies aestheticize violence; an actual fight brings out the desire to see men destroy each other. Perhaps we moviegoers, relishing violence, occasionally need to see how crazy the real thing can be.
Those who were furious at Tyson will be made even angrier by Toback’s film, for here is a fresh provocation—an attempt to restore to Tyson the human dimensions that have been taken from him (by himself, of course, as well as by others). The movie makes it clear that, for all his snarls and outbursts, he is intelligent, candid, and easily wounded; that he is by turns inordinately proud and inordinately ashamed and, above all, intensely curious about himself, as if his own nature were a mystery that had not yet been solved. Out of shape, his face bizarrely marked by the tentacle-like tattoos of a Maori warrior, Tyson was forty when the movie was shot, two years ago, mostly in the luxurious white living room of a house in Los Angeles that was rented for the occasion. In between footage of his fights, he looks directly into the camera, in tight closeup, or is photographed from the side, also very close, a Cubist approach to portraiture that suggests a complicated man trying to express warring impulses. Some of these contradictions are funny, as when Tyson says that he now wants a strong woman, very strong, a C.E.O. type—“and then I want to dominate her sexually.” Even at bay, he must conquer in all things.
Toback, having known Tyson for years, may have helped him shape his memories into a menacing American fable. Fatherless, his mother an alcoholic, Tyson grew up in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, a fat kid with a high, lisping voice who was an easy mark for vicious older boys. As a kind of revenge, he became a baby gangster who robbed drug dealers. In detention in upstate New York, he passed into the hands of Bobby Stewart, a retired fighter, who sent him, at the age of fourteen, to the great trainer Cus D’Amato. D’Amato both indulged him as a lawless teen and disciplined him as a fighter, and he inculcated in him the D’Amato doctrine, a way of transforming anger into a relentless attack, in which speed and strength—a hail of full-power punches—drive through an opponent’s defenses. As Tyson tells it, his old humiliations fuelled the strategy. Before a fight, he was frightened of losing, but, as he approached the ring, fear would ebb. In the movie’s most powerful sequence, we hear Tyson narrate his fear-management ritual as he climbs into the ring, his pupils darting this way and that, following an opponent’s movements. The death’s-head face he presented to the other fighter—cobra eyes and flattened cheekbones—was a mask designed to intimidate. He bore in, and the men collapsed like stunned cattle, often in the first or second round.

Perhaps Tyson was fortunate to have avoided school and society, inasmuch as his grim early years were the only background that could have produced the inexorable force that he became. What this early life couldn’t do, however, was protect him from the many dangers outside the ring. Without the guidance of D’Amato (who died when Tyson was nineteen), he fell among idolaters and users, and blew tens of millions of dollars, as he admits, on houses, cars, clothes, girls, drugs, parties, every kind of excess, to the point where the man who was once the wealthiest fighter in history winds up beached (literally—Toback photographs him facing the sea), stranded amid debts and visits to rehab clinics. In that long descent, Tyson acted out his sense of worthlessness. If he cannot be king, he will be nothing; the middle, he says, doesn’t suit his temperament. What he offers Toback’s camera now is savagery recollected in tranquillity—the baddest man becalmed into a state of articulate self-awareness. That victory, at least, no one can take away from him.

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