TCM's Edge of Outside Series

Through the month of July, Turner Classic Movies is screening a festival's worth of films by maverick American filmmakers. (Click here for the schedule.) The lineup of films is a great mix of acknowledged classics (A Woman Under the Influence, Raging Bull, Bonnie and Clyde) and some more rarely screened films. Since it's not available on DVD, John Casssavetes' A Child is Waiting, while not a major work of his, is probably the one I'm most eager to see again.

To coincide with the series, TCM has produced an original documentary, Edge of Outside. Unfortunately, the film feels like a primer for viewers largely unfamiliar with independent film. Regrettably, for me, it was a bit of a disappointment.

For one thing, the movie treads a lot of the same ground as the far-superior A Personal Journey Through American Movies with Martin Scorsese. In some cases (e.g., profiles of Nicholas Ray and Samuel Fuller), identical behind-the-scenes stories and film clips are shown. Anyone that's familiar with the Scorsese film will probably feel like they've seen some of this before.

Edge of Outside is almost entirely structured around interviews with filmmakers, and the roster of interviewees is largely predictable. Scorsese is here, as is Peter Bogdanovich -- both speak sagely as Elder Statesmen of American film. People of color are spoken for (and represented by) Spike Lee. Women are largely seen (in clips), not heard (in interviews).

Edge of Outside suffers from a lack of focus, too. The film tries to cover the history of American independent film from Griffith to today, but doing so in only an hour results in a predictably superficial tour. I was left craving fresh revelations about the familiar faces and films it covers or, alternately, I would have liked to have heard the stories of filmmakers operating closer to the "edge of outside."

To be fair, the version I saw was not the final cut, so judge for yourself: Edge of Outside premieres tonight at 8pm, and repeats on TCM throughout the month.