One attractive quality of documentaries is that you can seek out the films on subjects that interest you. This being Plot and Theme, a blog on film, I am often drawn to documentaries about film making. Many different aspects of film making interest me, but a subgenre has emerged in force over the last few years: the stories of films that fail to get made. Documentaries focusing on the strife behind camera have existed for decades, perhaps most notably in Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991), which details the struggles behind the making of Apocalypse Now. Similar docs portray the difficulty in making such films as Citizen Kane, Fitzcarraldo, and even The Boondocks Saints. But, at the end of the days, these films all got made according to the director’s vision, however compromised. The documentaries I am interested in showcase a different kind of film: ones that don’t make it to completion whatsoever.
The threat of physical violence is omnipresent in Scott Cooper’s muted crime drama, Black Mass. The narrative focuses on the Faustian bargain between FBI agent John Connolly and his childhood friend and mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger. As both men climb the ranks of their respective worlds, Connolly’s craft is subterfuge and deception; Bulger’s is intimidation and brute force. Though the card house tumbles eventually, neither the fall nor the resolution are the crux of this story. We may have come for the crime drama, but Cooper’s film strength is in the contemplation of Connolly’s misplaced loyalty towards Bulger, which the gangster wantonly exploits.