Director: Jean-Pierre Gorin
Year Released: 1986
Gorin, who was one of Jean-Luc Godard's collaborators (they formed the Dziga Vertov Group to promote Marxism), finds himself in the Golden State (he teaches at the University of California, San Diego) and interviewing men who are really into model trains and have this "club" where they maintain a giant set with (I'm guessing) hundreds of components - he also talks about the elaborate paintings of film critic Manny Farber. There are a lot of loving close-ups of the details in Farber's large-scale works as well as the little figures and automobiles in the mini-world the hobbyists made, but the "connection" between the two worlds is tenuous, and this documentary moves at the exact speed as a wind-up toy. The influence of JLG still lingers (Gorin likes putting words and numbers on the screen), but I wonder what it would have looked like if Werner Herzog covered the same subject: he would have hunted down the nuttiest freaks with the wildest back stories ... not guys who worked for General Dynamics. The only thing I'd rather do than sit around and watch actual trains chug by is get hit by the Acela Express.