AFF Review: The Exquisite Corpse Project
An "exquisite corpse" has many definitions and variations. At its most basic, it's a collaboration project, in which each collaborator puts in his contribution, followed by a peer who has to abide by a specific rule. For example, if three people were assigned to draw a character, each would take a different part: head, torso and legs. Each person would draw their portion with no knowledge of the others' work. This type of collaboration is the basis for the movie The Exquisite Corpse Project.
The Olde English comedy troupe has seen success, but the peak of their success has come and gone. Each member of the troupe has gone off on their own and started to establish their careers in different ways. But troupe member Ben Popik has an idea for an exquisite corpse project that would serve as the group's final hurrah.
Each member writes 15 pages of a script for a feature film, and the rules are that the person following could only read the previous five pages of the script ahead of them in the line. Each participant also provides a cast and location list. The result is absolute mess of a movie, but a hilarious atrocity. Interspersed between the footage shot for The Exquisite Corpse Project is a documentary-style presentation of interviews with each member of the troupe candidly speaking about the project and other topics.
To look at this film as a straight documentary would be a disservice. At the same time, to look at The Exquisite Corpse Project only for the 75 minutes of "film" footage shot is only going to make your head explode. The untitled movie-within-the-movie is an absolute disaster. Not only is each portion written differently, but continuity isn't maintained, and the direction differs in each segment. The performances are over the top, and characters are given strange names that no one can pronounce from segment to segment. Nothing about this should work on any level. But it does.
It works because one thing remains constant throughout each segment, and that is the honesty with which each member of the troupe approaches their pages. They each try to predict what the other will write and try to confuse the one coming after them. It's a big-screen version of the way they try to outshine each other comedically in the short films that made them famous.
What's great about this is that in the end, despite the awfulness of the result of their exquisite corpse project, it turned out to be a huge win for all members involved. They each gained a new respect for one another, and this is captured on film as it evolved from doubt about the project to the admiration, and sometimes hurt by the things the film brought forth. Seeing the human spirit captured on film this way was a delight to see.
The Exquisite Corpse Project is essential viewing for a fan of comedy, a member of a comedy troupe, or anyone who's recently alienated their friends for some reason and need a reminder of how great it is to have people to work with and lean on. It also just might be the funniest film you'll seen in a while. It will definitely be the most honest.