Dadetown (Russ Hexter)

Rating: **** (out of ****)

Reading reviews of films that you haven't yet seen is a potentially dangerous business. One on the hand, many people, myself included, use reviews to help decide which movies are worth their time and money; on the other, knowing too much about a film before you see it sometimes detracts from the pleasure of the experience. Dadetown, as the rating above indicates, is one of a depressingly small handful of truly excellent films that I've seen in 1996, and one of the reasons I enjoyed it as much as I did is because I knew exactly nothing about it when I took my seat; I could tell from the blurbs that it was a documentary, and I'd read somewhere that its 27-year-old director had unexpectedly died of an aortic aneurysm earlier this year, but that was about it. Consequently, I experienced the rare excitement of gradual revelation, discovering what the film is about only as it progressed along its exceedingly strange and disturbing path. I highly recommend this approach for this particular film, and I urge those of you who as yet know little or nothing about it not only to see the film, but to try to avoid reading -- or even glancing at -- any reviews, articles, or advertisements about/for it. Not because it features a twist ending à la The Usual Suspects, or a "secret" à la The Crying Game (though the deceptive ads I've seen, in a desperate attempt to lure people into a non-fiction feature, try to imply the latter), but because the journey, in this case, is much more intriguing than the destination. Dadetown is a brilliant, remarkable documentary, and one of the year's best films...and that, for now, is all you need to know. Enjoy finding out the rest on your own. And be sure to stay through the closing credits -- there are a couple of amusing fillips buried there.

(I do have an additional comment for those who have already seen Dadetown. If you have not yet seen Dadetown, please -- do yourself a favor and don't follow this link until you have. Thanks.)