Published on April 17th, 2021 | by Natalie Salvo
Original Schtick/Schtick Happens DVD Review
Summary: This documentary is a surreal and colourful portrait of an eccentric who straddles the lines between art and a con. It’s hard to turn away from the soap opera-like shenanigans.
Reality TV really hit its stride in the early 2000s. A documentary that showcases all the melodramatic antics associated with this genre was 1999’s “Original Schtick.” This film is a very compelling one that is like watching either a soap opera or a car crash unfolding in the Australian art world.
Maciek Wszelaki writes and directs this surreal piece. The documentary should appeal to fans of Morgan Spurlock’s films. The finished product combines excellent timing with an incredible character in American artist, Robert Fischer. The latter has an ego that can’t be contained by this universe. Fischer is an incredible storyteller and an alleged con artist.
Fischer turned up in Melbourne and dazzled fellow artists, gallery owners, art dealers and sponsors. He has talent but he often outsources his work to an apprentice, because he is single-mindedly focused on his career. The art scene are taken in by Fischer’s self-obsessed charm and what follows is a chaotic look at the aftermath of gallery openings and promotional spots on his tour of Oz. Fischer is centre stage playing the artful dodger to the sycophants, greedy opportunists, pretentious types and caring folks who are blindsided by his charm.
The DVD has both the original film and the short, “Schtick Happens.” The latter is more of a behind the scenes look at how the documentary was received at Sundance. Fischer appears once again and gives his take on that film he had so desperately tried to direct and curate. The filmmakers grapple with their complicity in supporting/encouraging this manipulative character’s wave of destruction.
“Original Schtick/Shtick Happens” is such bizarre viewing, it supports the argument that the truth is stranger than fiction. Fischer is an incredibly candid and obnoxious subject in this probing look at nouveau-pop art. The result is a colourful spectacle about the art world, its players and the relentless pursuit for 15 minutes of fame.
Film Genre Documentary
Label Umbrella Entertainment
Audio English (Dobly Digital 2.0)
Running Time 78
Aspect ratio 1.33:1
Region Coding 4
TV Standard NTSC
Consumer Advice Low level coarse language, sexual references
Year of Release 1992
Primary Format – Movies/TV DVD