Projections - Movie Reviews

Keep the River on Your Right

Keep the River on Your Right

Keep the River on Your Right is quite an informative documentary from brother and sister David and Laurie Gwen Shapiro, often bitingly real considering the repulsively ritualistic act of its subject.

Tobias Schneebaum was born, raised and still lives in New York, now Greenwich Village, at age 80.  He is a product of the time it took to make a usual exploration quite fascinating.

Living in Brooklyn for most of his early years, Tobias was an anthropologist and abstract expressionistic painter and in the 50's had a couple of one-man shows in New York City.  But this eccentric and intelligent man loved the remote and exotic cultures that still couldn't take the city roamer out of him.  For much of his life his not so profitable existence had hinged on his traveling tours to New Guinea to speak with his companions on the different lifestyle of the denizens they visited.

The Shapiros reveal a man who didn't hide his homosexuality.  Tobias is forthright with a loneliness and unsettling feelings from within toward a culture where he seems extroverted with many friends.  His despondency was about to change in the 1960's.

Finding out about Macchu Picchu in Peru, Tobias felt alive and free in a new, indigenous setting.  He found a tribal society where everyone was treated the same and everyone was able to find joy in the important things of life.

Monogamy wasn't the way of the community as partaking of sex, food, and well as one another's feelings finally lead to the moment when Tobias tasted human flesh during a tribal raid.  The cannibalistic custom and the savageness which preceded it never let go of him but he needed to come back to his origins.

Keep the River on Your Right is commendable for not using the issue of cannibalism in a context to distort a harrowing and challenging personal sojourn.  This title was from Tobias' book which he wrote after coming back from Peru.  In taking a man afflicted with Parkinson's Disease back there to shake him up with past memories offers a compelling authenticity as it's a discomforting experience that he complains in being a part of.

Yet, the winsome quality that Schneebaum projects to the audience as the object of attention keeps A Modern Cannibal Tale, filled with smart observations and intelligent, caustic wit that always feels right about a man who opens up his mind and heart even during interviews with the likes of Charlie Rose who had sharp opinions about a lover of life and men.

Keep the River on Your Right

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