It’s a wonderful thing to just sit with a director and let him or her reflect upon a long career making films. As far as documentary structures go, we could totally stand to see more of this. Obviously, you’d need a willing director, one with a body of work varied and interesting enough to be worth listening to. It also helps if the documentary is put together with elegance, as there is a fine line between a feature length career retrospective and a DVD special feature. Deodato Holocaust excels at the former requirement but suffers with the latter.
As the title probably indicates, Deodato Holocaust focuses on Italian exploitation (though, he probably wouldn’t like that title) filmmaker Ruggero Deodato, primarily known for getting into deep shit after the release of Cannibal Holocaust. But there is a lot more to his career than that, from playing a part in the creation of Django, to directing beloved cop film Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man, to even discovering character actor Michael Berryman. Deodato is one of those figures who has low-key seen it all, and if you have any affinity to this corner of film history, the value of his story is undeniable.
And luckily, we get a lot of it. Similar to De Palma and King Cohen, Deodato Holocaust takes the filmmaker through each of his films one by one. You might expect the entire film to be weighted unfairly toward Cannibal Holocaust, but that’s not the case. While the film does get more time than any other, they take a full thirty minutes getting to it and move on quickly. It goes deep enough to give a little something to those already well-versed in the film’s history without making it seem like the rest of Deodato’s career lacked worth.
On top of all the anecdotes and footage of films many viewers are likely to immediately put in their queue, you have Deodato himself. He’s an interesting character, seemingly a gentle intellectual while discussing films filled with sex and violence and mixtures of sex and violence. It’s an interesting juxtaposition. There are moments, however - particularly in a scene near the end - where a real anger shows, indicating the Deodato we’ve spent our time with here is something of a facade. The film only has what he gives it in this regard, and it’s not much. It’s an element that begs for more exploration that could ascend Deodato Holocaust into something more than a simple career retrospective.
That yearning for something better plagues the film from a production standpoint. There is not a lot of artfulness to the filmmaking here. We clearly have about four interviews with Deodato intercut with footage from the films in question. Very occasionally, there are affects like music or transition effects to help spice things up, but for the most part this is a very bland affair: it really is just a guy talking in a few different rooms. At times, you can hear the audio quality change as soundbites behind clips are edited in from other interviews. There is a base standard of filmmaking quality not met by Deodato Holocaust.
But maybe it doesn’t matter. Really, this is a film made for fans only, and I’m sure many of them are willing to forgive such blemishes for the bigger picture. On the other hand, this one isn’t likely to convert any viewers, if they even have a reason to see it in the first place.