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Forgotten Silver
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Jackson's best movie you've probably never seen."
5 stars

Together with Costa Botes, Peter Jackson pulled the wool over New Zealand's eyes with this pitch-perfect mockumentary, which clocks in at just under an hour and fooled a lot of viewers when it got aired on NZ television.

It's of course vastly more funny if you know it's all fake, though it'd be interesting to watch it with someone who's not in on the joke. The conceit is that Jackson, playing himself and narrating, has discovered some old reels of film in a shed the lost works of New Zealand film pioneer Colin McKenzie, who according to Jackson did everything in movies before anyone else. We see copious examples of McKenzie's ouevre (personal favorite: the world's first tracking shot), all immaculately staged, shot, and probably personally trampled upon by Jackson himself to look like actual period footage. As if that weren't enough, Jackson brings in expert testimony from the likes of Leonard Maltin, Sam Neill, and Harvey Weinstein, all of whom attest to McKenzie's visionary genius.

Quite aside from being perhaps the most elaborate prank in Jackson's career to date (or since), Forgotten Silver is a brilliant piece of moviemaking in and of itself; Jackson obviously relishes the opportunity to "re-enact" McKenzie's "work," dabbling in the language of silent film and paying tribute to the birth of cinema. This is easily the least-known must-see film in Jackson's filmography. Along with Heavenly Creatures (and, to a lesser extent, Dead Alive and Meet the Feebles), it proved Jackson's skill at creating an older or alien world so believable in every detail that you never question it (which may explain why so many New Zealanders fell for the hoax).

This, of course, would come in handy when it came time for Jackson to get to work on Middle-Earth.

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originally posted: 04/05/07 06:29:08
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  DVD: 26-Oct-2004



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