Adam Rifkin is such a fascinating filmmaker. He's a director whose name probably isn't recognized by a large percentage of the mainstream, who wouldn't know what to expect from "an Adam Rifkin film" unless you said "the guy who wrote Mousehunt and Underdog." But if those same people expecting Mousehunt were to sit down and watch almost any movie directed by Rifkin, they would get much more than they bargained for. Whether it's an "Adam Rifkin movie" or one directed by Rifkin's alter-ego Rif Coogan, one never knows what to expect from his work. With 30 years of feature directing behind him, it's incredible that Rifkin is still as prolific as ever, working both inside and outside the studio system, finding innovative ways to tell stories on a low budget so that he can make films as uncompromising as many of the titles that make up his filmography. He's a filmmaker who can't not create, and that's what I love about him so much.
1. Never on Tuesday (1989)
2. The Dark Backward (1991)
Bill Paxton plays the opportunistic friend goading him along. I can sometimes be resistant to movies that are this deliberately offbeat and eccentric -- movies that set out to be cult movies -- but Rifkin's oddball vision is impossible to deny. He doesn't present us with a weird premise, but fills out an entire world of weirdness: a garbage dump as urban hellscape populated by big, gross caricatures of human beings. I love that this feels like the quintessential Rifkin movie when it's so uncomprimisingly non-commercial, totally at odds with his later Hollywood screenwriting work. Somehow there's still no Blu-ray of the movie.
3. Psycho Cop Returns (1993)
4. The Chase (1994)
5. Detroit Rock City (1999)
6. Night at the Golden Eagle (2001)
7. Look (2007)
8. Giuseppe Makes a Movie (2014)
Having struck up a friendship with actor Giuseppe Andrews after Detroit Rock City, Rifkin set out to chronicle the making of Andrews' 10th micro-budget feature, 2007's Garbanzo Gas. The documentary follows Andrews as he shoots his movie on consumer grade home video over the course of 36 hours with a cast of trailer park residents and non-professional actors living on the fringes of society. It's a love letter not just to Andrews, who's as goofy and passionate and likable as ever, but to the kind of punk rock cinema that has informed so much of Rifkin's work throughout his career. His sort of outsider art has never been this outside, but so much of it leans that way.
9. Shooting the Warwicks (2015)
As part of his continuing experimentation with the form of cinematic narrative storytelling, Shooting the Warwicks is the inverse of Rifkin's Look, which was developed as a film before being adapted into a Showtime TV series. Warwicks, meanwhile, began life as a series (called Reality Show) and was then edited down into one 93-minute film. It's a darker-than-dark satire of reality television in which an upper middle class family is filmed around the clock without their knowledge; when they don't make good television, the director (Rifkin) steps in to make things more...interesting. The stuff about reality TV is nothing that hasn't been said before, but Warwicks is also targeting the American family, demonstrating that even the most perfect and stable nuclear unit is just a few nudges away from total ruin. The last few years more or less demonstrate that.
10. Director's Cut (2017)
11. The Last Movie Star (2018)