Larry Wessel's documentary Iconoclast is a four hour voyage into the life and mind of legendary experimental sound/noise musician, author, actor, photographer and cult figure Boyd Rice. Four hours may sound like an eternally long time to sit through a film, but this ferocious piece of artistry demands your attention. Rice holds you in the grip of his life story and the tales of infamous people he has had close associations with over his lifetime.
It is an engaging existence and Rice just tells it so well. As the do the many people interviewed. It was six years in the making and covers Rice's life from childhood through to the present. "Everybody who sees it says it is a little too short. As long as it is, there are a lot of things it glosses over or doesn't cover. There are either two hundred, or three hundred hours of footage, I can't remember. I'd known Larry about ten years, and he'd made some documentaries before. The reason I liked them was because they were mostly just talking heads, they were extremely slow, and extremely long. Watching one of his documentaries was like watching an Andy Warhol film or something. They were so tedious you'd feel like you'd actually lived through something. This one is different though, he just got new equipment, he hyper-edited it and it's really quick moving."
Boyd mentioned to Larry that he knew or had known some of the most interesting people on the planet and that a documentary on himself would make great viewing, and he wasn't kidding, including Tiny Tim, Anton LaVey (Founder and High Priest of the Church of Satan), Charles Manson, Marilyn Manson (who has called Rice his mentor), to name just a few. Iconoclast takes you through Boyd's relationships with all of these individuals and gives rare insight into people we rarely see such intimate slices of. It shares the indescribable epochs in time which saw Tiny Tim calling in the middle of night expounding on how women should be trained and treated, Anton LaVey dressed and playing a different bawdy character every time you visited his place (a Noir crime boss and a U-Boat Captain to name just two) and sitting with Charlie Manson for eight hours a day in the prison visiting area and talking Gnosticism.
All tales told with such detail and honesty as to make the length of the film fly by. And it's the honesty and authenticity of the film's subject that sticks with you. Boyd Rice comes across as a committed searcher/ prankster who enjoys messing with the public's perception as much as he does trying to come to a thorough understanding of existence.
There is a story Rice tells about how when he was a child he watched a man though a house window carefully ironing his shirt, the man put the shirt on, packed his lunch, kissed his wife and then left for work. Even as a child he felt that this wasn't for him. I asked him about it. "I had an instinctual feeling that I wasn't going to have an ordinary job or punch the time clock or do any of the ordinary things that people do. When I was kid I always assumed that I was going to grow up to be a criminal of some sort."
Rice mentions in the documentary that he used study true crime books for strategy rather than entertainment. "There was a thing in the 70's and 80's where everyone was reading about mass murderers and stuff, but I was just reading about criminals because I wanted to see what they managed to do get away with stuff, and what they did that screwed them up, it was like university for me of something…thankfully I never had to (laughs) go into a life of crime, because I started doing this bizarre noise music stuff and somehow or other it worked out for me. I don't know, it's 33 years later, when I started doing this, in San Diego in the late seventies there was a local magazine and they had a list of the people most likely to succeed, that sort of thing…they said I was the least likely to succeed…and here I am doing this 33 years later when everybody who was picked on the other side split up or gave up thirty years ago and have been working dull jobs ever since… whereas I've been living an exciting life and travelling all over the world and doing exactly what I wanna' do, so, all's well that ends well"
Iconoclast is showing at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival at Dogs Bar on Wednesday August 24. By JJ DeCeglie