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sábado, 17 de outubro de 2015
My Scientology Movie review: 'gloriously funny'
It's no hard-hitting exposé, but Louis Theroux's attempt to get under Scientology's skin is a giddy, Pythonesque delight
Louis Theroux versus the Church of Scientology. It’s a near-irresistible contest: the very face of deadpan scepticism, up against that many-headed hydra of indecipherable rage.
My Scientology Movie is the second documentary on the subject this year, following Alex Gibney’s more thorough and methodical Going Clear. Where Gibney circled the movement right from its beginnings, seeking to analyse its methods and impugn its motives, Theroux just gets right in there and jabs it in the ribs, that imperturbable mask of irony driving its partisans even more bananas than usual.
An unpunctuated “Don’t go there big man” is among the messages Theroux received from caution-advising Twitter followers, on announcing his intention to investigate Scientology for this BBC-financed doc. Another warns him that “the crazies” will soon be out in force against him, as indeed they are.
His efforts in Los Angeles to speak to their current membership meet with stony refusal, so only the apostates come forward: figures such as Marty Rathbun, former “Mister Fixit” of the organisation, and now Public Enemy No. 1, as far as the church and its much-feared leader, David Miscavige, are concerned.
The Theroux-Rathbun partnership, though it becomes interestingly fraught, draws all kinds of stalker-ish emissaries and cranks out of the woodwork, not one of them doing much to reassure us that Scientology is in fact cuddly, socially progressive or misunderstood.
Naturally lacking face-time with Miscavige or Tom Cruise – probably the world’s two most notorious Scientologists, with all due respect to Travolta – Theroux comes up with the neat gambit of auditioning various jobbing actors to play them both. Key public statements are read out, in what amount to screen-tests for a film Theroux and director John Dower don’t even end up making: the tests themselves do the job.
Rathbun, who claims to have witnessed the alleged violence and bullying behaviour of his former superior, but is also far from immune to accusations of his own complicity, puts these Miscavige-wannabes through their paces and rates their promixity to the real thing.
One especially triumphs: a guy called Andrew Perez captures the zealous set of Miscavige’s features uncannily, and imagines his leaps to fury with disconcerting plausibility. Perez admits anger comes to him quite easily, pushing pretend underlings up against the wall in curiously persistent reconstructions of how Miscavige is meant to have behaved behind closed doors.
Even Theroux, grabbed by the throat in a sudden outburst, is yanked completely out of his usual sly comfort zone, which gives such sequences a bit more of a meaningful thrust.
These allegations against Miscavige, which the church has always vociferously denied are true, go back years, and this isn’t the sort of doc which throws more wood on the fire. It’s more about the mindset revealed when Scientology reacts to scrutiny – namely Theroux’s pursuit in broad daylight by mysterious cars with tinted windows, and the strangers with HD cameras who camp out across the street from his shooting HQ.
These cronies claim to be making their own documentary, as a form of retaliation, which is such a delicious idea for Louis Theroux to play with: fully half the film consists of cameras pointing at other cameras, like an absurdist gunfight at dawn, with neither side willing to holster.
Twice Theroux loiters on the boundaries of Gold Base, the church’s compound in Southern California, and gets in contretemps with a human guard dog called Catherine Fraser, which reach Pythonesque heights of gleeful weirdness: he milks these showdowns for all they’re worth.
The one truly disingenuous note is Theroux pretending to harbour a “dream” at the start that he might have been the one person to discover Scientology’s “more positive side”. Yeah, right. It's all wickedly tendentious mischief, but when it's this gloriously funny, the points score themselves.