Simon Mercer’s short documentary offers a thumbnail profile on the life and (for lack of a better word) art of Phil Chambliss, a former security guard for the Arkansas Highway Department who has created a bizarre canon of no-budget short films over the course of three decades. Chambliss’ works were completely unknown outside of his circle of family and friends in Locust Bayou, Arkansas, until 2004, when they slowly began to seep into the festival circuit.
Viewed as the cinematic equivalent of outsider art or folk art, Chambliss’ work can be praised for its raw, unpretentious and unexpectedly witty qualities. But when compared to creative artists that take their filmmaking seriously, Chambliss’ films are ripe with out-of-sync dubbing, shaky editing and unsteady performances.
Chambliss comes across in the film’s interviews as a jolly and entertaining raconteur. Sadly, this documentary’s abbreviated running time only allows for the briefest of glimpses from Chambliss’ wacky work. If any subject deserves more running time, it is Chambliss. After all, how can one fully absorb the resonance created by such intriguing efforts as “The Hell With Lead Poisoning,” “The Pastor and the Hobo” and the black-and-white 8mm noir effort “The Shadow of the Hatchet Man” in less than 15 minutes?