Film Night Full Nelson

Wrestling's a pretty critically maligned form of entertainment these days, and with good reason: the "is it real?" question has long been answered by shows like Smackdown that shamelessly boast about the latest "storylines" and feature rosters of athletes more based on image or plot than skill—look at how many make the jump to Hollywood these days. This in and of itself I suppose isn't a bad thing, but it's pushed wrestling to more and more ridiculous extremes: ladder matches, unbelievable weaponry and ever larger cages to fight in really just hide the fact that it's a few dudes battling until one submits. I'm pretty sure there's special matches that combine all of the above and more but the emphasis isn't on the sport anymore, so the wrestling itself seems to suffer.

Film Night Full Nelson's glance back to a simpler, less faux-glitzy era of wrestling has a far more charming appeal and a greater air of authenticity because of how dressed-down it is. There really isn't much more than two dudes in a ring with personas, yet that's usually more than enough.
The first segment, consisting of home movie clips from the '20s to the '40s isn't really much of anything. Documenting a few student-made videos (kind-of charming high school works) and a few random fragments of film that features boyish rough housing—really, all it does is show that guys like to push and shove for entertainment, always have, and especially when it comes to being on film. Later there's a 1970s opinion poll taken at Westmount Shoppers' Mall asking if wrestling's fake or not (most people didn't believe it back then, either).

But Full Nelson wisely rests the bulk of its programming on archival footage, clips and highlight matches from Super Stars of Wrestling, a '70s TV program that's basically a prototype for the WWF. All the usual good guy/bad guy archetypes are there—they were worse actors back then—and most of the same kinds of twists get used: tag teamers who cheat, even if the illegal "weapon" that gets used is an oversized prop bone attributed to a character who goes by "Eric The Red" and dresses as some kind of medieval caveman. But there's no pyrotechnic-ridden entrances or or even much in the way of costuming, aside from one mask and a well-grown moustache. Just some guys in a ring, tossing each other, and somehow that sparks something much more basic and primal inside, possessing a more powerful pull than any ladder match ever could.

Film Night Full Nelson
Fri, Apr 16 (7 & 9:30 pm)
Film Night Full Nelson
Metro Cinema (9828 – 101A Ave)

3 stars

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