Spread the love


“Ren Faire,” an engrossing and inventive three-part documentary that debuts on HBO Sunday at 9 p.m., centers on George Coulam, founder of the Texas Renaissance Festival. King George, as everyone calls him, claims he wants to retire; he believes he’ll live for another nine years, and he has a vision for how he wants to spend this remaining time.

“I wanna do art and chase ladies,” he says. If only he could find a worthy heir.

Coulam comes across as part Logan Roy, part Joe Exotic — cruel, charismatic, driven and able to inspire fealty even as he dispenses bitter nastiness. (He has an assistant maintain his profiles on sugar-daddy websites and asks all dates, within moments of meeting them, if they have breast implants.)

People on the show compare him to Willy Wonka and King Lear, and he says he followed Walt Disney’s playbook for land acquisition and political strategy. One employee weeps with glee upon meeting him, and others curtsy when he walks into their office. He’s not a king! you want to shout. He’s just some guy! But I guess someone wants to shout that about every king.

George’s ambitious underlings strive for his intermittent approval and prostrate themselves, enduring petty humiliations only to crawl back and beg for more. The most debased and tragic is Jeff, who, with his wife, has worked at the fair for decades. He gets frustrated with her comparative lack of loyalty to the king, even as George pushes them both aside. “Just say that you serve George,” he insists, past the point of banter.

Later, as Jeff schemes and stresses, she asks him earnestly, “Is it folly?”

“Of course it’s folly!” he bellows, his voice shaking. Usually these kinds of lines are heard only in particularly farcical episodes of “Frasier,” but here they are both laughable and heartbreaking.

There’s something ridiculous about renaissance fairs, and so there’s something ridiculous about “Ren Faire,” which blends hallucinatory nightmare sequences and fiery cinematic moments into its nonfiction. Those clever additions echo the agreed-upon dumb fantasy of renaissance fairs: Nay, my lord, this meager pub be all out of Red Bull.

Directed by Lance Oppenheim and produced by Benny and Josh Safdie among others, “Ren Faire” depicts and embodies a Möbius strip of truth and grandiosity. The fair really is Jeff’s life’s work, as he says multiple times; it really is George’s gilded isolation chamber; it really is a business and a dream. Things can be silly and true and meaningful at the same time. Huzzah.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *