It may sound crazy after a solid week of the Savannah Film Festival, but the best movie you see this year may be showing at the Sentient Bean this Saturday night.
Shot over the course of a decade, mostly on 16mm black and white film, Who is Bozo Texino: The Secret History of Hobo Graffiti is one of the most starkly evocative, quietly compelling films you’ll ever find in any genre by any filmmaker. It’s that good.
The work of famed underground skater-punk photographer turned semi-nomad Bill Daniel -- who tours with his film out of the back of a van -- Bozo Texino takes you on a firsthand tour across the United States by open-air rail, ostensibly to search for the mysterious originator of a ubiquitous piece of boxcar graffiti, found on freightcars all across the country.
“I think this film has a broad appeal, concerned as it is with graffiti, and its place and history as an art form,” longtime Daniel confidante Mitchell Powers tells Connect Savannah.
But much like another great movie, Rashomon, the truth differs from person to person, and is in the final analysis only what individuals make of it. Daniel finds no shortage of hobos who claim to have met the mysterious Bozo at one time or another, but as you might expect, rarely do their stories ever converge into revealed truth.
No matter. The search is all that matters on an odyssey such as this one, and in searching for Bozo you find a slice of America that, despite its boozy, broken-down overtones, describes the essence of our country more than a hundred Chevy commercials or magnet-bedecked SUVs.
The hobos chronicled herein, all in their own words, with almost no intrusion of any sort by the filmmaker, share a single common dream: To live an unencumbered, truly free life.
“The hoboes in this film may be the last of their kind,” says Powers. “Train-riding has become very difficult in the post-9/11 landscape.”
One hobo with a suitably deep-wrinkled face and raspy voice puts it this way:
“Two things I don’t like -- and maybe my philosophy’s fucked up -- are responsibility and authority.”
You don’t have to endorse his point of view to admire the honesty in it. And that’s what makes Bozo Texino what one critic unabashedly calls “the best movie I have ever seen.”
It’s grainy for real, it quick-cuts without artifice, it lingers without self-consciousness, its relentless quietude and languorous rhythm as deeply hypnotic as the sound of the trains themselves.
While the movie’s soundtrack, heavy on old blues and honky-tonk numbers, is outstanding, it is this sound -- the constant clack-clack-clack of wheels on track, accompanied by the abrasive yet strangely comforting roar of diesel engines -- that is Bozo Texino’s real soundtrack.
Yes, Chevy, it’s the sound of America.
Bozo Texino: The Secret History of Hobo Graffiti screens Saturday, Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. at The Sentient Bean, 13 Park Ave. Cost is $5 on a sliding scale.