The documentary Mansfield 66/67 trades in the same camp as its iconic subject: “Blonde Bombshell” Jayne Mansfield. The film focuses on the last two years of the starlet’s life, reveling in the rumors that swirled and the legends that the papers saw fit to print.
The film is built from celebrity interviews, discussions with cultural academics, archival footage, and kitschy sketches. The film does best when it is analyzing the peculiarities of Mansfield’s singular persona and having fun with whatever explanations are dreamt up. When it indulges in notions of Satanism, curses, and other such nonsense, it quickly exceeds its artistic license and becomes hard to take seriously.
Perhaps that’s the point.
Mansfield 66/67 certainly has an irreverence about it. Events of Mansfield’s life are expressed through interpretive dance. Car crashes are play-acted with Hot Wheels. John Waters is interviewed extensively. This is a film that dares the viewer to take it seriously, and then spits your sincerity back in your face at the most baffling times.
Sometimes it works perfectly. It is a treat to listen to John Waters gush about the ridiculousness of Jayne Mansfield’s Hollywood persona. A super cut of her iconic and lilting squeal captures a glimpse of the magic that made the actor so attractive and popular. But perhaps an animated segment of Mansfield’s son being mauled by a lion – and the subsequent Satanic Rite that “saved his life” is a bit too far.
At the end of the day, Mansfield 66/67 is best when it focuses on the cultural milieu that birthed Mansfield – and then helped destroy her. It’s at it worse when it considers itself too clever and indulges in whatever wackiness it sees fit.
Sunday, May 28, 2:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tickets can be purchased at the Inside Out website.