A doc about filmmaker Kevin Smith poses an interesting challenge for the documentarian because Smith has been so open so often on public forums. What else can you explore that he hasn’t expanded on already? From feature-length behind-the-scenes bonus features to Smith’s lengthy discussions taped at colleges and concert venues, Smith has covered his life and career from (seemingly) every angle.
Directed by Kevin Smith protégé Malcolm Ingram (Drawing Flies), Clerk ends up beating the odds. The challenge may be unavoidable and, therefore, the film may only be for fans. But, Ingram does a great job producing a companion piece that fills in the cracks around the stories Smith has previously told and adding more substance to areas that haven’t been touched on before. If something isn’t covered in Clerk, it’s because Ingram has recognized there’s already a thorough Smith-approved insider that exists that would act as a better resource (the making of Clerks is hardly covered because the Clerks X home release is the definitive resource for that).
The doc moves at a brisk pace while covering Smith’s ups and downs as a filmmaker, his forays towards other storytelling outlets (comics, podcasting, public speaking), and how his career decisions have defined himself and his legacy. Interviews include personal one-on-ones with Kevin Smith, past actors who have contributed to his View Askewniverse, his family, directors who influenced the writer/director, and directors who have been inspired by Smith. If you’re watching Clerk as a fan, you’ll be impressed by how many stories told by Smith match up with other interviewees and the B-roll the doc provides context with. And while Smith does appear alongside some of these interview subjects, he never gets in the way of their explanations or criticisms.
Clerk hasn’t been made to confront Kevin Smith about anything (a brief chat on whether marijuana weighed on Smith’s productivity is treated as a fleeting tangent) but, at the same time, the film isn’t a two-hour ego stroke for the filmmaker. Clerk is rather a casual yet expansive trip down memory lane, allowing an old friend to fill you in on any details they may have missed telling you. The doc has moments of effective self-reflection for Smith, and it’s heartwarming to see his appreciation expressed through happy tears, and there isn’t a shortage of surprises for who shows up in this unexpectedly sincere flick.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie
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