A mind-bending autobiography by proxy, The Windmill Movie is filmmaker Alexander Olch’s attempt to take the half-finished life story of his mentor, Richard P. Rogers, and follow through on the elder’s partially explored themes of artistic impotence, poisonous family roots and unrealized potential. No need to worry about the unexamined life here: Rogers, a Harvard film lecturer, remained obsessed with turning the camera on his own life. The self-reflexive cinéaste interviews his mother about his childhood and records his wife in close-up; after a freak accident cuts off three of his toes, the filmmaker copes with the disaster by zooming in on his feet. Rogers was born to a wealthy Hamptons family, but in one explosive monologue, he confesses both his derision of this silver-spoon culture and the fear that he’ll never be fully accepted into it.
This is honesty bordering on masochism, and Olch theorizes that the project was far too personal for his teacher to finish before his death. Poring over hundreds of hours of footage and recording the narration as if from Rogers’s perspective, Olch completes this tortured, unflinching opus about a man so distraught by not having all the answers that he failed to notice he was asking all the right questions.