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The mockumentary itself is a good thing when done properly. In fact, This Is Spinal Tap and The Office are not just genre classics but all-round classics in their own right. And they work in the most peculiar way that’s very specific to them. If the same stories were put on another format it would be meaningless and this is what Netflix tries to do with Fiasco, a French farce about an aspiring film maker who can’t get past first base.

Bear with me for a moment because Fiasco isn’t exactly The Office or Spinal Tap. But it’s close, it harkens back to similar style and unique concept which rarely attempts because of complexities involved.

The aforementioned wannabe director is Raphael (Pierre Niney), a thirty-something year old man lost without any direction as he tries to turn his screenplay about his late heroic grandmother into a hit movie. He manages to pull funding from somewhere and get someone famous attached, then loses both of them within seven days of making the first shot.

Raphael generally screws up, but things go worse thanks to some input from saboteur. Leaked speeches made on set by Raphael, stunts going wrong and endless whipping up of publicity storms are the events that are leading towards his nightmare come true where he has no choice other than contemplating himself as well as how much he can take.

Fiasco is suitably titled since it’s an out-and-out dumb program – dumber than many of its more sober-faced brethren in this particular oeuvre if we’re being honest about it. While there might be echoes of other mockumentaries or backstage farces exposing the underbelly of movie or television industries, Fiasco stands apart from any single precursor.

Still you’ll spot some familiar components though. You’ll see some that will look quite familiar because they may remind you of others you’ve already watched that follow similar lines like these ones do. It may not be immediately obvious from its meta-satire on French cinema but Fiasco is more universally accessible than that.

More importantly, mocking the documentary format itself as a whole rather than the industry it belongs to feels like a smart move. Some jokes have been thrown in about film and the sort of people they attract, often ludicrous ones sure, but they are part of the wider context. After all everyone has watched a documentary at some point.

The problem is that this lack of industry humor makes Fiasco a weak satire; in fact, it doesn’t give any insights beyond trite clichés such as method actors being annoying or bottom line matters taking precedence over taste and decency.

But there is plenty to love here in terms of energy. The ensemble’s great, and above all, having what is quite clearly a great time. There’s something catching about that, and clever too. Indeed Fiasco appears tailored specifically for Netflix’s global audience, which avoids being too smart-arse or introverted for its own good.

Would it be successful? I’m not sure. Nowadays, it is difficult to predict what will succeed but at least Fiasco makes a good attempt at it. This reminds me of the kinds of movies that were around but neglected by many, and some that create great experiences if done perfectly, like for instance the mockumentary genre has always been such a treasure in the hands of its skilled practitioners. But you may have your own opinion on this; nevertheless, don’t worry if you thought Fiasco would be too insular for you to enjoy. And that matters.

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