Every year Hot Docs offers something up that's completely original, totally charming and directly out of left field. 2012 continues the trend with this simple biopic about an extraordinary artist -- by the name of Wayne White -- called "Beauty Is Embarrassing."
White started as a puppeteer, but has dabbled in voicing, performing, sculpture, painting and set design during his successful career. "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening is part of a long list of artistic insiders who have followed White's career with enthusiasm, and while you likely don't know him by name, there is a strong chance you have seen or even admired his work. Best known for his imaginative set and character design on "Pee-wee's Playhouse," White's artistic vision also appears in rock videos for Peter Gabriel, The Offspring and the inspiring visuals seen in the Smashing Pumpkins' 'Tonight Tonight.'
This doc catches up with White in more recent times that have him reinventing himself all over again as a serious pop-art painter. The bearded American southerner has a twinkle in his eye, a grumble in his soul and a dark sense of humor -- he seems to always be laughing at something. Director Neil Berkeley takes us through the chapters of White's life, including his formative years in Tennessee, his attempts at a career in New York City and his eventual landing in Los Angeles. White's New York years are particularly interesting, as he's hired on to work on a psychedelic kids show called "Pee-wee's Playhouse." Actor Paul Reubens, who made Pee-wee into an icon, speaks passionately about his affection for Wayne and his work on the show. Characters like Randy, Dirty Dog and Flower #3 were not only created by White, but voiced by him as well.
Every good story needs some drama, and for White it was the fateful day Reubens was caught committing a lewd act in a Florida movie theatre. "Pee-wee's Playhouse" was already set to finish, but that little bit of news made for a quick shutdown. White was left with a stellar resume, but at the end of the day, he was a guy who made garbage into puppets. Thanks in no small part to his wife Mimi and his artistically inclined children, White navigates a post Pee-wee world. The cameras travel with White during his speaking tours, his art shows, road trips back to the American south and even capture some of his decent banjo playing.
"Beauty is Embarrassing" is pleasant to view, and a great study of one of those artistically minded people who own one of the obscure pieces of the pop culture jigsaw.
Sat, Apr 28, 6:00 PM Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Sun, Apr 29, 1:30 PM Isabel Bader Theatre
Sun, May 6, 3:30 PM Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Full schedule of Hot Docs screenings Hot Docs Day 2: 'Beware Of Mr. Baker' Hot Docs Day 1: "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry"