Sunday, 13 August 2017

They called him Spencer (5 Stars)

I consider this to be the biggest surprise hit of the year so far. After seeing the trailers I expected it to be good, but I was unprepared for just how good it would be. It doesn't keep to the bounds of any one genre. It's a documentary, but it's also a road movie. The documentary is about Bud Spencer, but just as important is the story of the two men making the documentary.

The film takes place in 2014. 32-year-old Marcus Zölsch from Augsburg considers himself to be the world's biggest Bud Spencer fan. It's not just about having all his films on DVD and Blu-ray. Anyone can do that. Marcus has a room in his house that's dedicated to Bud, whose real name is Carlo Pedersoli. Apart from the film posters on the wall, he has over 2000 pictures, a mixture of film stills, promotional articles and magazine covers. He's determined to meet his hero, but it's not that easy. Most film stars are easy to track down, if you make enquiries at their agencies or talk to paparazzi. Bud has retired, and he lives a very secretive life somewhere in Italy.

Marcus feels overwhelmed by the task of finding Bud Spencer by himself, so he looks for a partner. At an annual meeting of Bud Spencer fans in north Germany he meets Jorgo Papasoglou, a 37-year-old man who is equally devoted to Bud. Jorgo has been blind since birth, but he's discovered something in Bud's films that has fascinated him all his life. The two men set off in a camping bus. First they travel to Paris to visit a stunt man who worked with Bud. He gives them the address of a retired actor in Toulouse. The actor gives them the address of a music composer in Rome. The composer knows the address of a small office that handles Bud's business affairs.

The film is overwhelmingly emotional. It's fascinating to see the friendship develop between Marcus and Jorgo, two men who hardly knew each other before they started their road trip. They have successes and setbacks during their trip. Language is a problem. They're both Germans, and they speak only broken English. They speak no French or Italian. Ironically, Jorgo's blindness isn't a problem. He's so accustomed to never having seen anything that he's self-confident in all situations. Marcus repeatedly accuses him of not really being blind and tests him.

The documentary is interspersed with many short clips from Bud's films, especially films he made with his life long friend Terence Hill (born as Mario Girotti). There are many interviews shown in the film which weren't made on the road trip. I suspect that they were made after Bud's death last year. It's fortunate that these two dedicated fans managed to track Bud down before it was too late.

One last warning. Some people in the cinema today walked out too early. There's a hilarious after credits scene. Don't miss it!

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