Fast, Cheap & Out of Control

Director: Errol Morris

Institute History

  • 1997 Sundance Film Festival


In a generation of very talented artists, Errol Morris emerges as one of the most innovative and original filmmakers working. He has conceived another outstanding and unique film, Fast, Cheap & Out of Control, which is more “low concept” than his earlier work. This highly original production is better understood metaphysically than literally. Morris describes it as “four versions of the myth of Sisyphus.”

A topiary gardener, a lion tamer, a mole-rat photographer, and a robot scientist speak to the camera, contemplating their life’s work and reflecting on its place in the sphere of things. Two are looking forward—they speak of the future and envision a world where life has mutated or evolved to another form—and two look back. They survey a past of crumbling animal topiary and a circus era that has seen better days. They are all odd characters, sharing an obsessive tenacity to inhabit a separate world. One has spent his life working in a highly perishable garden, another practically lives in a cage, dreaming of Clyde Beatty, his mentor hero from another age. The mole rat is a cold-blooded mammal, continually challenging its chronicler to capture its elusive environment, and the robot scientist identifies more with machines than his own kind.

Morris has carefully structured a film whose subject is nothing less than the contemplation of human enterprise and the essence of life. He continues to display an almost-surreal detachment toward his subjects, but there is something touching and ultimately very moving in this discourse on existence. With superb imagery—Bob Richardson, the cinematographer, often worked simultaneously with five cameras, shooting black and white, color, 35 mm, Super-8, and 16 mm—great music, and a riveting sound track, Fast, Cheap & Out of Control is a memorable mental excursion; it is also an elegy to the filmmaker’s recently departed parents and the state of humankind.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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