CFS gets “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control”

Meghan Roskopf

Although the movie title “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control” may sound like an accurate description of your old roommate, the film is quite different. Directed by Errol Morris, this 1997 non-fiction work studies the relationship between human consciousness and the environment.

Through separate but interwoven interviews, Morris explores the lives of four men who are all passionately dedicated to their careers. One is a circus lion tamer who idolizes famed animal trainer Clyde Beatty; the second has spent more than 50 years creating animal-shamed topiary, and thus, could have been the model for Edward Scissorhands; the third is an animal behaviorist who studies naked mole rats; and the last is an M.I.T. scientist who has devised self-directed robots which resemble insects.

What do these men have in common? Everything – and nothing. Although Morris introduces his subjects one at a time, he affectively intertwines their experiences throughout the course of the film. Each man has a deep understanding with his chosen field, which is conveyed to the audience by showing them fully immersed in their element. For example, the careers of lion tamer and the topiary gardener are becoming outdated whereas the scientists’ views look towards the future.

Yet, in this pursuit for a greater understanding of human nature, there is no guarantee that the scientists will be more successful.

Morris worked with Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Richardson, who is most recognized for his work in “Natural Born Killers” and “Casino,” to create this bold film. The film combines cartoon clips, old movie clips, black-and-white, and color shots. Furthermore, the interviews were shot with Morris’s invention, an Interrotron, which allows subjects to look directly into the camera lens and at the same time, maintain eye contact with the interviewer. This technique gives the viewer an enhanced experience, as if they were face to face with the subject.

Morris has been praised for his works, which include Gates of Heaven (1978), “The Thin Blue Line” (1988), “A Brief History of Time” (1992), “Mr. Death” (1999) and Oscar winner “The Fog of War” (2003). In 2000, Morris created “A Brief History of Morris,” a cinematic self-portrait.

The second offering in Villanova’s current Cultural Film and Lecture Series, “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control” will be shown four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday, 18 at 7 p.m., Sunday, 19 at 3:30 and 7 p.m., and Monday, 20 at 7 p.m. Admission is $3.50 for students and $5 for all others. The Monday evening showing only will feature Temple professor Paul Swann as the guest speaker. Dr. Swann will introduce the film and lead a discussion, “The Thin Line Between Genius and Madness,” afterward.