Published Jun 05, 2014The Yiddish word "mensch," as it is defined by Merriam-Webster, means "a person of integrity and honour." But what happens when a person's characteristics are above and beyond the attributes of a regular mensch? Why, they become a "Supermensch," or at least that's what first-time filmmaker Mike Myers (Austin Powers, Wayne's World) would like you to believe.
In his debut documentary, the Canadian silver screen icon turns his lens towards the legendary talent of manager Shep Gordon, best known for launching the careers of Alice Cooper, Teddy Pendergrass and Anne Murray, as well as introducing the world to the concept of the celebrity chef.
Originally from Long Island, Gordon moved to Los Angeles in the early '60s to become a social worker, but quickly found himself unemployed at Hollywood's Landmark Motor Hotel (home to such notable residents as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix). With a pair of famous friends and a new career as the motel's resident marijuana retailer, Gordon was faced with the task of creating a fake job to throw the local fuzz off his trail. At Hendrix's insistence, he became known as a talent manager.
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon charts the Hollywood hobnobber's rise from two-bit dope dealer to celebrity confidant, while also documenting the downside to being one of the industry's preeminent talent wranglers.
Those who've seen eOne's recently released Alice Cooper documentary will notice a string of similarities between the two features, including overlapping subject matter and the somewhat unusual inclusion of the word "super" in each title. While it may seem perplexing to have both films released so close to one another, witnessing them in short succession actual allows for a deeper understanding of Gordon's pivotal role in the '70s music scene and modern entertainment industry.
In his first-ever feature, Myers injects his own sense of humour through the use of fast-paced editing and visual asides. One scene finds Gordon recounting a chance encounter with Pablo Picasso, but is ultimately interrupted by a Pop-Up Video-style interjection from the director clarifying that the famed artist had died long before the supposed event took place.
For some, the film's overuse of talking heads with celebrities like Michael Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Arnold and Emeril Lagasse may seem overly congratulatory and a bit indulgent, especially when they're heaping on the praise rather than helping illustrate the finer points of his character.
While Supermensch's ending ultimately feels like a big-budget dating video compared to a traditional documentary, The Legend of Shep Gordon is no less of an intriguing watch, in part due to its unraveling of the Hollywood persona and those who manufacture it, but primarily because of its super subject matter.