Neil Diamond is the least interesting person in Solitary Man.
NEIL DIAMOND: SOLITARY MAN (Samantha Peters, UK). 59 minutes. Saturday (April 13), 7 pm, Innis College. Rating: NNN
Neil Diamond fans - and I know you're out there - won't want to miss this doc about how an introverted boychik from Brooklyn became the extroverted Jewish Elvis.
Solitary Man mines home movies (starting with footage his haberdasher dad shot of Neil's mom coming home with her baby from the hospital) and interviews with childhood friends like Neil Sedaka, and the producers he fought with - Jeff Barry in particular. The doc tracks Diamond's teen years, the first of his songs that charted, how his tune I'm A Believer became a hit for the Monkees and changed his life, through to his recent appearance at the mammoth Glastonbury Festival.
Problem is, there's too much repetition on the theme of Diamond's difficulties finding his footing as a performer and, unfortunately, he's the least interesting character in the movie.
But his music catalogue sure has legs. Seems like all 200,000 people at Glastonbury knew the chorus to Sweet Caroline.
SUSAN G. COLE
A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE (Igal Hecht, U.S.). 70 minutes. Sunday (April 14), 8:30 pm, Bloor. Rating: NNN
Yuk Yuk's founder Mark Breslin and six Canadian stand-ups travel to the Holy Land to see if their jokes detonate in one of the world's most politically charged centres.
Sounds like a great premise, and it pays off, up to a point. Breslin and some comics - particularly Rebecca Kohler, Jean Paul and Aaron Berg - are in fine form in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, playing to everyone from senior citizens to savvy hipsters.
There are contradictions aplenty, like the comedy club that bans the word "crap" and anything sexual. The worst response they get is in a club in East Jerusalem, when an entire table leaves after one comic fails to mention Palestine. A shame director Igal Hecht and crew didn't follow those patrons for a response.
But it's a joy seeing the comics integrate their trip into their material (Jean Paul's Dead Sea joke is priceless). And there are plenty of moving moments, as when Breslin inserts the set list of Jewish comic Stewart Silver, who was to have joined them but died suddenly before the trip, into the Western Wall.
ROMAN POLANSKI: A FILM MEMOIR (Laurent Bouzereau, UK). 90 minutes. Wednesday (April 17), 4 pm, Sheppard Grande 5; April 21, 3:15 pm, Innis College. Rating: NNN
The title gives the game away: Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir isn't going to be an exposé or a hard-hitting look at the career of the controversial director (and convicted child rapist).
Instead, it's a convivial meander through his illustrious past with the filmmaker and his friend Andrew Braunsberg. They recall the good old days when Polanski was friends with lots of famous people and made classics like Rosemary's Baby and Chinatown, before the unpleasantness that caused him to flee America and work in Europe for over three decades.
Director Laurent Bouzereau, who made his name producing epic making-of documentaries for Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, finds some great archival material and clearly has his subject's trust.
I just can't help feeling it might have been worth risking that trust to dig a little deeper into the man's psyche.