Augustus Gladstone is a sweet southern gentlemen who favours sweaters, neckties and tennis shoes and squats in an abandoned hotel somewhere in Portland Oregon amongst a treasure-trove of commemorative plates, book shelves of old tomes and documents and other assorted bric-a-brac. Pasty and hairless in complexion, with painted on eyebrows and an obvious blonde mop for a wig, to call him eccentric is to understate things considerably. His private existence has taken a toll the point of desperate loneliness drowning in denial. His only companion, Tommy, seems to be a strung out junkie also illegally occupying the building, although Tommy’s quarters are decidedly less cozy.
He claims to be born in the year 1856, which might explain why a documentary crew comes to start making videos on Augustus. Maybe they were curious about the series of YouTube videos from a few years ago after one of Augustus’s few friends gave him a laptop and instructions on how to use a webcam. The newfound attention at first seems to invigorate Augustus, whose odd diction and mannerisms carry enough unique charisma to hold the camera’s attention. But when the documentary filmmakers start really start poking into things, they start to become the story as much as documenting it.
What starts off as perhaps the sweetest Vampire movie ever made quickly turns to a savage indictment of unintended consequences of journalism or simply the promise of “15 minutes” of fame. What the director, Robin Miller, calls the “unforgiving mayhem” of making a documentary. Miller is also the star of the show with copious amounts of make-up and accessories to transform himself into the contradiction of foppishness and dignity that is August Gladstone. The sense of humour in his little film is so dry and wistful that those with a lesser pallet may find jokes as cunningly hidden as the clues in the early 1990s video game “Myst,” of which Miller served as a co-creator. The humour is very much of the 21st century understated variety often found in culty corners of the internet. Thus, it comes as no great shock that the film has geek-humour website BoingBoing as chief producer. Consider the title of the film, The Immortal Augustus Gladstone, then note the first shot is an elaborate tracking shot towards the cemetery headstone, carved with a recent enough date, of the titular character.
If the usual Christopher Guest faux-doc comedy is a frothy Pepsi-Cola of giggles, The Immortal Augustus Gladstone is a Pino Gris, delicate and subtle, ignored and collecting dust on the back shelf of a large retail shop of wine and spirits. That is not to say the film is a revelation or game changer, it is hardly that. It is a quiet break from an ever increasing docket of bombast and hubris. It is also not to say that the film doesn’t have teeth, for all it brings up then skirts the actual vampire issue, it seems allude to Gladstone possibly being HIV positive or having some sort of neural disorder. Whatever equilibrium that Augustus has found for himself is viscously shattered by the incoming documentary crew which crowd the little nest he has made, all but bully Tommy out of the place, and tend to do more harm than good. Not since Man Bites Dog has a film capitalized on the ever-increasing tendency of the documentary crew to insinuate itself into its own subject matter. Documentaries like Winnebago Man and William and the Windmill are other examples of the non-faux variety which accidentally brush on this matter.
Would you like to know more…?