Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Aileen: Life And Death Of A Serial Killer

Aileen Wuornos is widely regarded as the first female serial killer, as well as one of the most documented mass murderers since Hitler. True-crime aficionados currently have their choice of theatrical movies about Wuornos: An uglied-up, Oscar-chasing Charlize Theron earns her thespian credentials with Monster, and now Nick Broomfield and Joan Churchill have co-directed Aileen: Life And Death Of A Serial Killer, the sequel to Broomfield's 1992 film Aileen Wuornos: The Selling Of A Serial Killer. Broomfield's latest begins on an intriguingly postmodern note. After an extended recap of the case and the first film, Broomfield is called upon to testify in a Wuornos appeal about the marijuana consumption of one "Dr. Legal," the amusingly hapless hippie attorney who, in Selling Of A Serial Killer's most memorable scene, subjects Broomfield to a cassette of himself singing and playing multiple instruments, during what he describes as a "seven-joint ride" to visit Wuornos and dole out stoned legal advice. (In all fairness, the trip seems like a five-joint trip at most.) By this point, most of Broomfield's movies have become as predictable in their own way as Jackie Chan's. The setting, subject, and cast of skuzzbuckets changes, but the themes remain largely the same: humanity's endless capacity for greed and exploitation, the swarm of hungry jackals that flock to profit from sordid scandals, and the elusiveness of truth. Broomfield has to some degree emerged as the documentary world's premier chronicler of the parasites exploiting their oft-slippery ties to infamy, but that's largely because of his shameless eagerness to be one of those parasites, albeit one empowered with final cut. Many of Broomfield's films leave him open to charges of exploitation and profiteering, and Life And Death is particularly egregious in that respect. It ostensibly tries to uncover the truth about Wuornos' crimes–whether she was defending herself, as she initially claimed, or was killing in cold blood, as she later argues in a desperate attempt to be put out of her misery. Broomfield says early on that he regarded Wuornos as the most honest person in Selling Of A Serial Killer, but she contradicts herself so often here that Broomfield's half-hearted search for the truth becomes something of a wild-goose chase. Broomfield's documentaries present life on the fringes as one long, sick joke. The joke still works, but in Life And Death Of A Serial Killer, it leaves a bitter aftertaste.


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