Tyson is like Kurt & Courtney: if you’re interested in the subject, you’ll be able to watch the film, despite the style and quality of the filmmaking.
The word I would use for director James Toback’s TYSON is busy. And that’s an understatement. During the Tyson interviews – there are no interviews with anyone else but Tyson, except in stock footage, and even then there is Tyson commentary running underneath – there are as many as four Mike Tyson frames onscreen, playing at once. If he rambles at all, a new frame moves in and continues the thought, while the former dominant frame, still onscreen, albeit smaller, continues to play and you can hear him softly over the new, bigger frame. This sounds confusing, and it is. Likewise, there is a recurring theme of multi-frame close-ups of Tyson’s face: an eyeball, his lips, his cheekbone and tattoo – all at once – and under that, we hear a flood of words, mostly adjectives, which Tyson uses to describe himself, or something else, like what attracts him in a woman, or whatever the case may be. It’s a little much, and I don’t think it quite works. All this stuff – the hyper-editing, the many images onscreen – seems to me like function over style. It comes off as a style, but I think it was one of a few ways to deal with the wealth of rambling footage of Tyson. Apparently, according to my father who heard it on “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross, the cameras were set up prior to the interviews, so Tyson is actually alone when the recording begins. It makes sense since the movie is like an autobiography, completely in Tyson’s head. The only glimpse of how others see him is in the stock footage, and even that is very heavily edited, so as to serve Tyson’s narrative. When I read Malcolm X’s biography, my favorite part was the afterword by Alex Haley, X’s biographer, because I finally got a break, and saw X from the outside. Now, you could easily argue that both Malcolm X and Mike Tyson have been seen from the outside a lot, and what is curious is to see their lives, respectively, from inside their skulls. But I need a little of both. Somehow, the inside and the outside of a person gives a balanced perspective, adds to a portrait, at least a non-fictional portrait; I want to hear what others have to say about you and I want to hear it from you. And to literally hear it from someone else’s mouth, not just Tyson telling me what someone else said about him. Capiche? Continue reading