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Strongman (2011) ***

StrongmanWhen regularly observing your own image in the mirror, it is hard to notice much of anything new in that same old reflection. Yet, try looking on occasion at a curved mirror - one that enlarges some parts while reducing others, and hidden details may reveal themselves to you. Consider Strongman, the documentary film, to be such a mirror.
Strongman tells the story of a fairly unique character, Stanely, nicknamed Stanless Steel, who can bend a penny with his bare hands, raise a truck slightly off its back wheels, and lift a small elevator with three people inside it using only one finger. Whether he is indeed the strongest man alive, as some believe him to be, remains unclear, but his strength is without doubt significant. Yet the film does not focus on his fits of strength but rather, as it should, on the character itself - what makes Stanless tick, his relationships with his redneck NJ family, his addict brother, and his insecure girlfriend. It is here that the curved mirror, which is the film itself, shows us curious intimate details otherwise hidden in the mundane. Filmmaker Zacharey Levy, spending several years on and off with Stanless, delivers an honest look, lacking any interpretations. And this is where the film's strength as well as its weakness, lies. Though intriguing, a documentary needs to provide more than just a recording of events, and it is my feeling that Levy is unable to leave his friendship with Stanless aside and make actual statements. Still, Strongman is a notable film and a worthy effort.

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