Thank You Very Much
Genre: Documentary, Biography, Comedy
Year Released: 2024
Runtime: 1h 39m
Director(s): Alex Braverman
Where To Watch: showing at the 2024 Santa Barbara International Film Festival
RAVING REVIEW: I was born at a unique time in comedy; the early 80s saw many talented comedians rise, fall, and emerge. However, the one that stuck with me the longest was one who unfortunately passed away (and yes, he unfortunately really is gone) shortly after I was born. Stepping into the spotlight is Alex Braverman’s documentary THANK YOU VERY MUCH, which captures the essence of Andy Kaufman, a comedy (song and dance man) giant whose light refused to dim. Far from a standard compilation of Kaufman's greatest hits, this documentary invites us into the more secluded chambers of his life and legacy. With a thoughtful blend of never-before-seen footage and heartfelt narratives from those in Kaufman's inner circle, his friends, and even “enemies,” Braverman sheds new light on the man behind the enigmatic facade, offering audiences a nuanced look at his complexities and contributions.
Braverman’s approach to storytelling breaks away from conventional documentary filmmaking. He opts for a rich collage of personal memories, rare performances, and insightful reflections; the film portrays Kaufman as an entertainer and a vanguard at the forefront of blending reality with performance. “It's not that I was crazy. It's just that I was sad at times because the world was sad at times. When I would perform, it wasn't sad anymore.” – Andy Kaufman. This innovative structure keeps viewers riveted, offering an immersive and personal journey through Kaufman's life.
The intimate perspectives of Kaufman's close associates, such as Bob Zmuda, Danny DeVito, Lynne Margulies, Marilu Henner, and many more, are central to the documentary's authenticity. Prioritizing direct testimonies over third-party commentary provides a genuine and intimate exploration of Kaufman's influence and persona. The unveiling of exclusive interviews and footage adds layers to the narrative, revealing the individual behind the public persona.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH also tackles Kaufman's enduring impact on the ever-evolving landscape of comedy and culture, positioning him as a pioneer whose work was always in tune and one step ahead, mirroring today's fluidity between authenticity and facade. The film’s careful curation of Kaufman’s performances, juxtaposed with analysis, eloquently argues for his foresight and significance in shaping modern entertainment dynamics.
One of the film's crowning achievements is its balanced portrayal of Kaufman. Braverman skillfully navigates the tightrope between celebrating Kaufman's ingenuity and addressing the controversies surrounding him. This balanced perspective ensures that the documentary resonates as a well-rounded exploration of a figure whose influence remains undeniably relevant. Kaufman was not perfect, but his journey in life was always to try and make people smile, even if it was at his own expense. “The more they hate you, the better you're doing.” – Andy Kaufman.
The film goes beyond the surface to explore the driving forces and pivotal moments behind Kaufman’s groundbreaking work. It incorporates personal stories to paint a more human and relatable picture of Kaufman. This deep dive into his life and artistry creates a compelling and engaging viewing experience. While I didn’t experience Kaufman in his prime, I was lucky enough to enjoy reruns of TAXI, Jim Carrey’s take on him in MAN ON THE MOON, and many outstanding recorded performances over the years. This documentary takes time to preserve his legacy, showing his sincerity and who he was (maybe.)
THANK YOU VERY MUCH is a testament to Kaufman’s timeless impact on comedy and culture. Braverman’s meticulous compilation and examination of Kaufman’s life affirm the comedian’s status as a visionary whose body of work continues to resonate. The film not only celebrates Kaufman’s artistic legacy but also prompts viewers to reflect on the nature of humor, performance, and the art of entertainment itself.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH emerges as a standout documentary that intricately explores Andy Kaufman's life, art, and legacy. Crafted with warmth, insight, and keen attention to detail, Alex Braverman's film is a heartfelt tribute to a comedic legend, stirring the imagination and reaffirming the transformative power of humor. A must-see for anyone intrigued by the complexities of one of comedy's most captivating figures, this documentary leaves us with a deeper appreciation for the boundless possibilities of performance art.
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[photo courtesy of WAVELENGTH PRODUCTIONS, TREMOLO PRODUCTIONS, ELARA PICTURES]
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