Its a trend that is not too difficult to predict: as the technology to make movies becomes cheaper and more accessible, the world will be inundated with films by ambitious people with credit cards and stories to tell. This widened availability of moviemaking technology (and the improved means of distributing and marketing such films on the web) has bestowed upon audiences humorous and impressive short gems like George Lucas in Love and 405, and more serious efforts like The Blair Witch Project and Six Days in Roswell.
Unfortunately, it has also spawned an overabundance of lame Blair Witch parodies (guys, youre never going to top The Scooby Doo Project, so stop trying!) and shallow camcorder documentaries like X-Philes.
X-Philes, which bills itself as a documentary that probes the inside and the outside of this fishbowl we call fame, feels like an excuse to run around a sci-fi fan convention with the directors new Handycam. Under the auspices of discovering what lies beneath the obsession with the TV show The X-Files, the film is a record of greedy tchotchke vendors, obsequious network lackeys, bemused supporting actors from the series cast, and of course bright-eyed fans who appear to be running a fever. None of these people, unfortunately, have anything interesting to say.
Or this man?
If Trekkies was embarrassing to fanboys like ourselves because of the depth of the obsessions of our fellow Trek enthusiasts, then X-Philes is downright frightening. The adventures of Mulder and Scully dont even have the underlying ideals that make Star Trek appealing, so what are we to learn from the fixation of X-Files fans? Is the message here simply that humans can bond through shared anti-government paranoia, lust for attractive actors, and UFO abduction fantasies? Heck, thats how the Internet was created!
Perhaps because they sense that theres little to be gained from analyzing the shows appeal, the directors of X-Philes choose instead to focus on the mechanics of fandom: how the show was one of the first to accrue popularity through the Internet (a fact that seems to be due more to lucky timing than to anything unique to the show itself), why fans seek out their actor idols so rabidly for autographs, how best to stalk David Duchovny. This last bit is most graphically illustrated in a sequence edited throughout the film, in which the filmmakers take a ride with some autograph hounds as they tail Duchovnys car. Tragically, there is no payoff to this sequence: we never find out whether Duchovny lost his fans in traffic, was pinned down at his next stop, or whether he even noticed his followers at all.
An X-Phile stomps all over the fine
line between being a fan and
being a stalker.
This is the fatal and repeated flaw of X-Philes: the documentary never follows through. Always asking the fans how and never why seems to be the mode of operating here. Those interviewees who do become philosophical are usually the supporting cast members who have obviously been chewing on their situation for some time and seem glad that someone with a camera is paying attention to their thoughts on stardom. But they dont get it: no one really cares that the Lone Gunmen cant understand the hobby of autograph seeking; wed rather they were talking about the events of an upcoming show or dishing dirt on Gillian Anderson. And do we really need to hear so much from the actress who plays Mulders mom? She gets more screen time here than in the show! We can't imagine that Mulder and Scully would be very impressed with the investigative work on display here.
These documentarians have forgotten that movies tell stories. The tailing Duchovny scenes aside, most of the segments lack narratives and context. For instance, theres a bit in which a woman leads us to what is allegedly David Duchovnys house. She indicates what we assume are Duchovnys automobiles, Duchovnys driveway, Duchovnys fortress-of-solitude style house, and she is obviously proud to be sharing this little secret with us. But who is this woman? What is the rest of her life like? What does her family think of this obsession? What is it that makes her stand outside this particular TV stars abode, looking for tell-tale lights that will indicate if his Davidness is home?
There is one interesting bit in which two women from Scotland trudge around Vancouver looking for the set where the show may be filming. They actually find the location, and we see them talking to actor Nicholas Lea, who plays Krycek. But earlier in the documentary we saw pictures of the two fans at the same location with Chris Carter, the show's creator. What did we miss? Why dont they tell us the story of what it was like to meet Carter, even if they couldnt show it? Unfortunately, thinking about things like this kept us from getting very absorbed in the actual documentary. The events implied or referred to were more interesting than what actually ended up on screen. The truth is out there, but we didn't get to see it.