10/05 IN THE RAILROAD EARTH : Bill Daniel’s ‘Who Is Bozo Texino?’ [9/10]

Who Is Bozo Texino? is a great American movie, and its greatness is tied up very closely with its American-ness. With this brilliant experimental documentary, self-styled hobo film-maker Daniel places himself firmly in the bootprints of Jack London, Jack Kerouac, Walt Whitman, Woody Guthrie – a fine, long tradition of American artists who look for their inspiration to the marginal, the underclass, the vagabond and the outcast. Nominally a chronicle/survey/history of boxcar graffiti (a tradition as old as the railroad itself) and the men who create it, Who Is Bozo Texino? soon transcends its narrow subject-matter to become a gloriously rough-edged elegy for an America which is being swept away before our eyes.

Unlike the overwhelming majority of documentaries – even entertaining recent examples like Murderball, Dogtown and Z-Boys and Stoked – Daniel's film manages a near-perfect union of radical form and radical content, And it does so in consistently accessible style: at first you're intrigued by the stunning monochrome images captured by his self-effacing, sensitively-handled camera(s); by the startling kineticism of his fluent editing style; by the sheer range of voices, music and sound-effects we hear as he tracks down a series of grizzled hobos and wisdom-dispensing graffiti-'markers.'
Then you realise that, just as these men have always instinctively rejected authority and convention, Daniel (who has made a fantastic old-school poster for the movie) has likewise embraced the unorthodox in his style of film-making – even down to his choice of title and running-time. Indeed, in less than an hour Daniel manages to say more about life, art, America and the simple joy of film-making than most directors manage in decades.

Neil Young
29th October, 2005

WHO IS BOZO TEXINO? : [9/10] : USA 2005 : Bill DANIEL : 56 mins
seen on DVD at home in Sunderland (UK), 28th October 2005 [with thanks to Bill Daniel]. Also shown at Viennale film festival

There's a secret stigma, reaping wheel
Diminish, a carnival of sorts
Chronic town, poster torn, reaping wheel
Stranger, stranger to these parts
Gentlemen don't get caught, cages under cage.
Gentlemen don't get caught,
Box cars (are pulling) out of town,

There's a secret stigma, reaping wheel
Stranger, stranger to these parts
Chronic town, poster torn, reaping wheel
Diminish, stranger

Box cars are pulling
a carnival of sorts
Out of town