Because I seemingly cannot stick to any on movie watching theme, today’s movie of choice checked off a few different boxes, but none of which are the self-imposed movie watching goals I’ve tried to set for myself this month (i.e. Criterion films I own but have not watched or mainstream new releases). Instead, today’s movie is a 2020 film that a Podcast I listen to has been talking up, and a film that let me utilize one of my May Kanopy watches before they rolled over. All that said, with how much trouble I have had this month even keeping up with the one movie a day goal, a win is a win.
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (2020, Dir. Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross)
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets stretches the definition of documentary to its limits. The film purports to document the final day of the Las Vegas bar the Roaring Twenties. The film captures the bar’s all-day party as the local barflies experience one last night in the bar that has been their home away from home. The thing is, the Roaring Twenties was not actually closing and, it is not in Las Vegas rather New Orleans. Potentially the largest betrayal of the documentary label is that the attendees at the night’s festivities were cast rather than locals wandering in – though only one was a professional actor (Michael Martin) and he played himself.
If so much of the film is filled with artifice, how does Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets claim to be a documentary? The answer to that comes from the purpose of the film. Rather than tell the literal story of a closing dive bar directors Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross use that flimsy premise to booze up a bunch of locals and explore a part of the human condition. Real alcohol flows freely while the film shoot, and as the inebriation sets in, the locals forget about the prying eyes of the camera. Despite the film’s inherent falsehoods, the emotions flowing from the people on screen are genuine and reflect each person’s inner struggles. In this way, Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets is more honest than most documentaries, even if it takes some liberties with the initial setup.