James Ellroy's Feast of Death, while starting a bit student documentary like, quickly becomes a gripping and completely grim but fascinating portrait of a damaged man obsessed. You may be familiar with Ellroy's books, he is the prolific author of Killer on the Road, American Tabloid, and LA Confidential but if you only know him from seeing the LA Confidential movie, in his own words “what f—ing good are you to me?”.
Yep, Ellroy is not exactly a charmer, he's a foul mouthed and cranky misanthropic egomaniac with a crazy, tough exterior. The films in depth look into his life and past, particularly the horrific rape and murder of his mother when he was a child, however, creates as sympathetic a portrayal as possible of the notoriously surly and difficult man.
His harshness is also softened also by the company he keeps. We meet along the way many of the real life heroes, the homicide detectives he speaks to for authenticity in his books. These are the men who hunt the real monsters that plague Ellroy's dreams and litter his books. They are also the kind of men that make you feel somewhat safe in a crazy world.
There is a dinner scene where Ellroy, detectives, historians, and briefly Nick Nolte (!) talk about Black Dahlia theories that is mesmerizing. In fact, mesmerizing is an apt descriptor for the entire film. One scene, where Elroy takes the crew on a pitch dark, flash light lit drive through his childhood LA neighborhood to show where terrible crimes took place that has stayed wit me since I first saw this many years ago.
It was aired on IFC and then I never heard from it again which was frustrating because I really wanted to recommend it to friends who are Ellroy fans. But now it is out of DVD and any fan of noir, Ellroy, or documentaries should rent it.