Michael Jacobs' Audience of One belongs to a particular nonfiction genre—the docu-exploitation of a spectacularly miscarried movie. Jacobs' hapless protagonist is San Francisco Pentecostal minister and Cecil B. DeMille wannabe Richard Gazowsky. Although his Voice of Pentecost Church is housed in an old deco movie house, Gazowsky only saw his first movie—not The Passion but The Lion King—at age 40. This revelation inspired his high-concept vision: "Star Wars meets The Ten Commandments." Gazowsky promises Jacobs that Gravity: The Shadow of Joseph will be "the greatest movie ever made"; putting his faith in God, Craigslist, and some mysterious German investors, the pastor shepherds his devotedly naive flock and highly photogenic family over to picturesque Alberobello, Italy, for a five-day shoot. Unpaid actors are the least of Gazowsky's problems: There are a number of technical glitches, beginning with a failure to anticipate European direct current, continuing through a snapped cable, and climaxing with a three-day camera jam. Back in San Fran, the projected budget doubles to $100 million (and will soon redouble). Gravity: The Shadow of Joseph is worthy of the hubristic monuments detailed in Stuart Klawans' Film Follies—except that those lunatic extravaganzas, "filmmaking pushed beyond all rational limits," actually got made. In three years, Jacobs reveals, Gazowsky has completed only two shots. But what shots—if only we could see them!
Gazowsky commands his flock.
Runs at Northwest Film Forum, Fri., July 17– Sun., July 19. Not rated. 88 minutes.