THE DOCUMENTARY "Mel Brooks: Make a Noise"
WHEN | WHERE Monday night at 9 on WNET/13
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Not shy by disposition, Mel Brooks has usually turned away requests to make films about him, until now. This "American Masters" portrait, produced by Robert Trachtenberg, covers a 60-year career through interviews (Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Cloris Leachman, Joan Rivers, Carl Reiner, Barry Levinson), clips (all the major movies, from "The Producers" to "Spaceballs," and all the minor ones, from "The Twelve Chairs" to "Dracula: Dead and Loving It") and archival footage (including interviews with Anne Bancroft, his wife of 41 years, who died in 2005, and Gene Wilder, his most famed partner in films).
But the star of the film is the subject, who impishly explains the circularity of his spectacular success: "I don't know if I'm talented, but I've told so many people I'm talented that they believe it, then they tell me I am. So now I believe it, too."
MY SAY There really is no conceivable way to screw up a film about Brooks. You turn on the camera, get out of the way, then let him talk. The absence of a fresh interview with Wilder here is a gaping one -- unexplained -- but not fatal. Nor is Brooks' skillful effort to deflect almost any discussion about his interior life. "American Masters" portraits are always about celebrations anyway, and this one's painted in big, bold brushstrokes, though there is at least one anecdote that cuts right to the heart of his accomplishment. Susan Stroman, the director-choreographer of the stage version of "The Producers," lost her husband, British director Mike Ockrent, to cancer just before they were to begin work on the musical. A master of persuasion, Brooks convinced her to stay on by promising that " 'you will laugh all day.' It saved me. It really did. It was meant to be that Mel came into my life."
All those who cherish Brooks -- his great films and not-so-great, and especially his effortless genius for making them laugh for so long -- will nod in silent and happy agreement.
BOTTOM LINE What's not to like? It's about Mel Brooks, for crying out loud.