Posted at 2:59 PM on October 1, 2007
by Euan Kerr
How can you resist a film that describes itself as featuring "Hungarian Revolutionaries, Christian Nudists, Pop Stars, Land Sharks, Hard Drinkers, Empty Cities, Failed Resort Towns, Tons of Dead Fish, A Dying Cafe, & a Man Who Built a Mountain?"
"Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea" a new documentary by Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer promises all that and delivers too.
Their film looks at the Salton Sea, a large lake that formed almost by accident less than a hundred years ago southeast of Palm Springs in California. In the years since it has become so salty due to the run-off from surrounding agricultural land that it's an inland sea. At one point it was a bustling resort area, but now it's ringed by a dying community. However it is also one of the few remaining wetlands in Southern California and it's home to huge bird colonies and millions of sport fish. Both populations are subject to yearly die-offs as the walter heats up in the summer sun, which adds to the sense of malaise.
The schlockmeister himself, John Waters, narrates the film, but Metzler and Springer engage their audience through the array of eccentrics and hucksters who live around the Salton Sea. (If you saw "Into the Wild" you will have seen Leonard Knight, the creator of Salvation Mountain appearing as himself. You get more of the Leonard show in "Plagues and Pleasures.")
The film also raises the question of who is ultimately responsible for the Salton Sea, while simultaneously asking what the role of the Sea should be. Is it a paradise or an eyesore? A haven for nature or a huge sewer? Like the best movies, "P&P" doesn't give any answers, but it does push for more discussion and action.
Chris Metzler will be in town to introduce the film at the Bell Auditorium on October 25th and 28th. We hope to talk with him before then.