Caesar's Park

on March 29, 2001 by Chris Wiegand
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This documentary, directed by Sarah Price (producer of "American Movie"), explores the lives of the residents of Caesar's Park, Milwaukee. When Price moved into the neighborhood, she was excited by the prospect of making new friends. What she found was a community of people who had lived there for years but hardly knew their own neighbors. Her slow-moving and meditative documentary is strangely intriguing, yet ultimately fails to satisfy.

The film follows the everyday lives of Polish war bride Jeannie; 94-year-old Tillie and her two daughters; married couple Don and Dolores; amateur photographer Richard; and junk hunter Charles. Price filmed over a period of 12 months, checking in with the residents throughout the seasons. Jeannie dominates the film and shares a teasing and affectionate relationship with the filmmaker. Remarkably foul-mouthed, she gives us her opinions on the neighborhood, which she believes to be going downhill, and details the basic outline of her day, from watering her plants to watching Ricki Lake and Jerry Springer. The second principal interviewee is Richard, a recovering alcoholic and eager photographer who has the world's worst photo collection, which features snapshots of his television, his new shower system and every tombstone in the military cemetery. Musician Charles provides the film's soundtrack, with his discordant guitar and harmonica improvisations.

By simply hanging out in the homes and gardens of the locals, Price gives us an accurate representation of their daily habits. The flavor of the community is subtly depicted through slight comments and small observances. Aside from footage of Jeannie's garden party, a birthday celebration and a 4th of July parade (featuring the world-famous All-Kazoo Band), Price's interviews are conducted during mundane moments. Richard talks whilst repairing his bike, Charles whilst sitting on the front porch. Many of the inhabitants' attitudes towards life are resolutely unenthusiastic, especially those of Jeannie and Richard, who moan about the uninspired way in which their vacations pass. This is a peculiarly affectionate portrait of a community largely devoid of typical displays of affection. Directed and produced by Sarah Price. A Bluemark production. No distributor set. Documentary. Not yet rated. Running time: 67 min.

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