Working Class (2011) [San Diego Film Week 2017]

Using A Tale of Two Cities, this documentary tells the story of Mike Giant in San Francisco and Mike Maxwell in San Diego who are both artists and friends who connected through tattoos the first put on the second.  Throughout the film, their lives are paralleled and compared until it eventually brings them together.

In this 2011 documentary by director Jeffrey Durkin, the steps in each protagonist’s lives are separated into chapters with title cards for each and some quotes read out of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.  The film opens and closes with readings from the book as well.  This mix of both the book and the filmed material works great and creates a dynamic way of telling the two men’s stories and a good way to connect them.

The two leads here, Mike Giant and Mike Maxwell are two artists with different styles that somehow connect with each other.  The way each of their lives are shown with connections being made back and forth between the two, through their pasts, their lives, and their arts shows that they are more alike than the surface would show.  The comparison between their cities and the differences between the two men add to the story being told showing other sides of each of them.  The style in which they are interviewed looks to fit each one’s personality with one being shown more as a city man while the other is shown more as a countryside man even though he is from San Diego which is a city (but as residents can attest, it has a much more small town vibe than San Francisco does).  The film also includes interviews with family, friends, and co-workers to give a more rounded impression of each man.

The film’s cinematography by Jeff Katz is stunning and shows San Diego (and its surrounding area) and San Francisco in beautiful images, giving each a distinct image and personality, both of which as a resident of San Diego County and a frequent traveler to San Francisco feel and look right.  The images show the essence of both places without going into clichés or showing too many of the usual tourist attractions.  It shows that San Diego is so much more than the Gaslamp or Old Town and that San Francisco is so much more than the Golden Gate Bridge and Chinatown.  It gives a good idea of basically the soul of each city through each artist’s lives and works.

This documentary also has good music to accompany the images, including music by The Silent Company and possibly a few others but The Silent Company are the only musicians listed on IMDB for the film.  The way the film uses music on scenes showing each city works well and adds to the feel of each location.

Working Class is a good documentary showing the dichotomy between two artists and friends with parallels to their cities done with judicious use of Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities and beautiful imagery.  This documentary seems to be more about the feeling of things, places, and art as ways to define artists.  Director Jeffrey Durkin definitely puts a lot of thoughts behind his documentaries, this one included, and shows this in his way of showing each artist differently which also connecting them in a way that makes sense when they come together in the end.  The cinematography by Jeff Katz is also very fitting, showing the two men and their cities with distinct identities.  This is one of those documentaries that is interesting to watch and also beautiful as it piques the interest about these two artists.