#301: CPH:DOX – Petey & Ginger (2012)

Petey & Ginger is a flatulent, pointless documentary which skirts around some things that I have an interest in. Danish filmmaker Ada Bligaard Søby, calls up two of her most disenfranchised, hedonistic buddies and follows them around their indolent lives for a few weeks. The first is Petey Dammit(!), guitarist for garage rock doyens Thee Oh Sees and all-round pessimist; the second is Ginger Partington, a former call-girl turned fortuneteller. At a little over an hour’s length, I found that the enjoyable soundtrack from greats like Thee Oh Sees, Coachwhips and Ty Segall wasn’t enough to keep me from being bored.

Surprisingly for my own personal interests, the freewheelin’ escapades of being in such a great band like Thee Oh Sees is incredulous and boring. With an unwelcome mixture of apathy and contempt, the conventional ‘all I wanna do is make music, man’ mentality of Petey is outshone by the moderately more interesting Ginger. Growing up in a mountainous American landscape, she left her man-eating mother behind and headed into the army. Finishing her service, she fell into a job as a prostitute/dominatrix/escort of sorts. Although it’s slightly jarring to see that she looks back on this time with only fondest of memories, her life is now at risk of being so conventionally unconventional – she’s a tarot reader.

I’m too tired, frustrated and idle to list the many problems of Søby’s documentary, but one of the main resounding issues is the lack of intent. We observe these two people (whose stories are in no way relating other than that they are in the same friendship circle) just going about their daily business, only slightly more awkwardly due to the fact that they have a film crew following them around. Neither are fascinating enough to constitute their own independent documentaries, nor a hodgepodge assembled one. A wasteful and intrinsically unlikeable documentary.

IMDb it / Trailer

CPH:DOX is one of the world’s biggest film festivals dedicated to documentary practice, with an interest in particularly experimental audio/visual work. You can follow all of my coverage here. For more info please visit the festival website.

8 thoughts on “#301: CPH:DOX – Petey & Ginger (2012)

  1. I would disagree. This documentary shows their lives in transition and embracing their ‘lot in life’ through the transformations in the American economy and the digital age. The film is anything but ‘boring and pointless. In short, this review is full of heavyhanded generalizations.

    • Point taken, greenzone. However, if there’s any heavy-handed generalisations on my part, they emanate directly from the film itself.

      I think the film’s biggest failure is that it failed to show these two people’s far from extraordinary lives in anyway that was engaging, enthusiastic or entertaining.

      Watching it was a truly isolating experience, like when you’re ‘not in’ on a private joke. Even if the pair aren’t the most interesting people in the world, it was Søby’s job to convince me otherwise.

  2. For the record, I don’t t smoke pot. Not to say I have anything against it, but that’s not my lifestyle. As a real life Holly Golightly type during the financial crisis, I provided various diversions for businessmen. But that is not how I spend my spare time.

    Ada was interested in showing the inner lives of two creative people, west coast boy and east coast girl, who live outwardly directed lives that cater to others’ fantasies. While a certain balance is achieved by each character, they transition from truly degrading jobs that are no less a staple of our economy, to work that allows them greater self-expression.

    I don’t expect everyone to be on the edge of their seats for something so meditative and personal, and I never understood the voyeurism and apathy that drives the public fascination with reality television. To me, this is story is the product of that culture, and yet I respect the filmmaker’s decision to tell it with more humanity than is generally afforded two “burn outs.”

    • Hi Ginger. It’s fantastic to get a direct response from you.

      Firstly, I apologise for the slanderous pot-smoking claim. It’s been some months since I saw the documentary, but perhaps I mistook a cigarette for something a little more potent. Again, apologies and thanks for the clarification.

      Perhaps I was a little too seething to articulate my stance on the film directly after seeing it. It certainly covers some ground that I find fascinating (societal disconnect, the product of post hedonistic culture and the grave times of today). I think that humanity chord – to me and the people I viewed the film with, at least – lead to a feeling of apathy. Everything just seemed so nonchalant, watching the doc was as if being a party you weren’t invited to, hearing people exchange private jokes which you have no grasp of.

      Let the record state – “burn-outs” was your phrasing, not mine!


  3. Hi Luke,

    Hi Luke,

    Just to clarify, “pot-smoker” is not slanderous so much as misleading, and this characterization of apathetic, disenfranchised, indolent, etc. — All your words — is neither an accurate representation of either characters (in my own opinion) but most certainly not a product of substance abuse personally. I do not self-medicate to escape my life, and I do not show up to tell fortunes on Monday nights high. But hedonist is totally fair 🙂

    • Fair play. I’ve redacted the pot-smoking line, just for the sake of clarity.

      Apathy is an interesting one. I wasn’t particularly suggesting that either you or Petey were such, rather that that is what the documentary, and it’s representation of Ginger and Petey as filmic subjects, lead me to believe.

      Hope the fortune telling is going well. I’ve never had mine told, but I am certainly curious.

      • Thank you, Luke. I haven’t seen the film, so I’ll look out for the sources for your impression when I do.

  4. So, is reading tarot cards, your curiosity not withstanding, “conventionally unconventional”? Jeez, maybe we should all be firemen and bank tellers to spice it up.

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