Mysteries always interest me. Since my first Agatha Christie and Rex Stout books, this genre always lures me in and engages my brain and attention.
So, I should absolutely love “The Imposter” as so many of the techniques of the best “missing, presumed dead” movies are used in this much-praised documentary, made by Picturehouse and about a dozen partners and previewed with a question and answer session from Hackney Picturehouse to 40 sister cinemas, including Stratford East, where I saw it with a discerning friend.
Heck, if you are under 30 and raised on reality TV, you’ll love it. For me, the phrase “Big Brother” means George Orwell and not celebrities named George pretending to be cats.
Plot? The title tells you quite a lot. Nicholas Barclay was 13 when he disappeared from his San Antonio, Texas home, in 1994.
In 1997, a guy in Spain announced he was Nicholas and the film follows events after that.
Jerry Springer would call the extended family of Nicholas “trailer trash”, even though they live in an ordinary house in a modest suburb.
My early discomfort came from being invited to laugh at the poor and ill-educated family. Europe is “a place you can smoke and drink a certain caffeine-based soft drink”, according to Nicholas’ sister.
There is a sly mocking here of the working class American which troubles me deeply.
“The Imposter” is raised to a higher level when investigator Charlie Parker hits the screen. This good man with glowing blue eyes longs to learn the truth of what happened to Nicholas.
You can Google Frederic Bourdin and Nicholas Barclay and learn a lot about the real story. Bourdin assumed lots of different identities, until he retired in 2005. Nicholas was due to be sentenced for a crime and might have been sent away to a group home, the day after he disappeared.
My companion and I found it unsatisfactory as it raised so many questions in our minds that were never answered.
But the Big Brother generation will gobble it up with a ton of popcorn. Director Bart Layton will probably win an Oscar and get huge amounts of kudos for reinventing the documentary genre.
I find that unbearably depressing although I wish Layton and his jerky hand-held camera shots well. I am off to seek out the superior documentary “Just Another Missing Kid” which grabbed me by the throat in the 1970s, won an Oscar and was just wonderful.
They don’t make ’em like that nowadays. If you want another take on Nicholas and Frederic’s story, seek out Jean-Paul Salome’s “The Chameleon” from 2010.
Apparently, the family of Nicholas likes “The Imposter” and feel they are accurately portrayed.
The audience at Stratford Picturehouse enjoyed it immensely and chomped on their snacks while paying rapt attention, on a very hot day. The pictures of the audience from Hackney showed hipper people in better clothes, equally rapt and scoffing better goumet treats.
Reader, I doubt that this film is good for you. It makes me feel very, very old and from another planet entirely.