Monday, June 01, 2015

Archie's Betty (2015)

I give Gerald Peary credit, he has managed the implosion in the film criticism market with aplomb reinventing himself as a Professor of film Studies and now lately a director of documentaries. And he wants to spend three years tracking down the real life inspiration for "Betty Cooper" (from Archie Comics) who the hell am I to judge? Gerald Peary is unique, he is a comics fan with no abiding interest in super heroes, his tipple from boyhood was Archie Comics. Hence this his current documentary which among other things explores the career of Archie Comics artist Bob Montana who grew up it turns out in Haverhill Ma and likely based a lot of the characters on his friends at the local high school! And from there Peary traces the inspiration for blonde Betty Cooper to one Betty Tokar, the ninety four year old Hungarian widow of the Police Chief of Perth Amboy New Jersey. The detective work seems pretty definitive & Peary's narration is breezy the whole concoction though is more akin to a "Essay Film" focused as much on the director's lifelong relationship with Archie an his universe as it is on the career of Bob Montana and the quest for "Betty Cooper". Nevertheless the facts are all there and Ms Tokar's claim to being the perpetually lovelorn Betty Cooper's avatar seems as secure as it can be given the slippery committee driven nature of comic book artistry. I think though, Peary have hit on something here, there are literally dozens of good stories from the golden age of comic books begging for documentary treatment. the Rise and Fall of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Who Really Created Batman? or even good long sit down with Ramona Fradon one of the few women artists who date back to the golden age of comics and that just off the top of my head. Anyhow the ICA is screening this film twice more on June 14th I advise all and sundry to check it out....

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