Film Review: JonBenet’s Tricycle by Andrew Novick

By Cory Casciato

 

Photo courtesy of Andrew Novick

 

Denver’s godfather of weird—Andrew Novick—knew that he wanted to make a film as soon he got his hands on JonBenet’s tricycle, and in typical Novickian style, the results are a delight. Delirious and disturbing, yes, but a delight all the same.

The titular tricycle—which Novick took from the backyard of the Ramsey family home shortly after the infamous murder—is the documentary’s focus, but the film is so much more than that.

Recursive and multilayered to the point of being almost fractal, the film is a bewildering ouroboros of ideas and concepts, folding back on one another over and over again, stuttering and sputtering in a dance of intellect and emotion that’s surreal and beautiful, while also deeply creepy.

It opens on an interview with Novick, before spinning off to give viewers a peak of his collections of everything and anything, from vintage clown memorabilia to morbid merchandise spawned from the Manson killings. Before long, we’re reliving the infamous JonBenet murder, communing with psychics (and debunking with psychic skeptics), meditating on tabloid culture, delving into the ways we experience cultural phenomena, examining the way we form both memories and attachments to objects, and dealing with the backlash to some of Novick’s especially outrageous stunts, such as the t-shirt designs that seemed to advocate suicide.

Does this sound like an unfocused mess—a madhouse rollercoaster ride through dozens of concepts and ideas and images, going everywhere and nowhere all at once? It is. But it’s also a loose-limbed but fascinating look deep into one of the most unusual and unique minds you’re likely to ever encounter. It’s like an early Werner Herzog doc if Herzog had less focus and a hell of a lot more whimsy, but mostly it’s just like Novick himself: weird and at times off-putting, but always charming and full of joy.

 

 

Cory Casciato is a Denver-based writer with a passion for the geeky—from old science fiction movies to brand-new video games. His work has appeared in The AV Club, Colorado Public Radio, Westword and many other places. He really likes zombies.

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