Starring: Stanley Pleskun
Directed By: Zachary Levy
Produced By: Zachary Levy
Running Time: 113 minutes
Release Date: January 25, 2011
Zachary Levy’s debut documentary Strongman centers on Stanley Pleskun, a middle-aged scrap metal hauler from New Jersey who is strong enough to leg-press pickup trucks and bend pennies with his fingers. Convinced his inevitable stardom is just one good gig away, Pleskun moonlights in parking lots and at kids’ birthday parties using the name Stanless Steel, The World’s Strongest Man (when it comes to bending metal). Unfortunately for Pleskun, his emotional shortcomings continually sabotage both his career and personal life, especially his relationship with long-suffering girlfriend Barbara.
Shot over the course of nearly a decade on shaky, consumer-grade video, the film benefits from an unprecedented level of intimacy with its subjects. Levy’s cameras capture Pleskun’s jealousies and frustrations, his rationalizations and self-pity. We witness him abandon his New Agey mantras of positive thinking and healthy living in favor of smoking and drinking. We can see every bit of the toll his dreams have on his relationship with Barbara, especially once he begins including her in the act.
Strongman could easily be mistaken for a mockumentary. Its supporting characters are sometimes drawn too broadly, and it often revels in the awkwardness of Pleskun’s failures, or his ignorance in general. But Levy takes great pains to flesh out his lead, presenting us with an intriguing mix of contradictions without any commentary. Without any flashbacks, talking head interviews, or other third-party tricks to establish Pleskun’s history, the audience is forced to live in the moment and experience the story entirely on its own terms. It’s a bold choice that makes for riveting viewing.
You can see Strongman at noon this Saturday, October 1 at the Oriental Theater, as part of the Milwaukee Film Festival’s Documentary Competition. Director Zachary Levy is scheduled to attend the screening.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and students (with valid ID), $8 for festival members and $6 for children (12 and under). Tickets can be purchased either at the theater box office, online or by phone.
For additional information about the schedule, venue locations, pricing, and scheduled events, visit milwaukee-film.org.
3.5 Stars (out of 5)