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Once the shaggy, raucous, Katy Perry-marrying actor/comedian who charismatically stole movies as disparate as Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Tempest from the clutches of his better-known co-stars, Russell Brand has kept the shagginess (and most of the raucousness) while pursuing a completely different realm of media attention.
Brand, who hasn't made a film since the Diablo Cody flop Paradise in 2013, has become a self-styled political disruptor, whose anarchic stances on government, politics, economics, and voting have ignited considerable controversy that includes accusations of reckless radicalism, deeply-entrenched misogyny, and self-admitted narcissism, the latter of which, as Vanity Fair notes, shouldn't necessarily come as a surprise to the comic who titled his 2013 stand-up special Messiah Complex. But Brand's newfound role as a self-willed, self-proclaiming neo-revolutionary has also made him into something of a would-be hero among those who see his outspoken takes on the inherent hypocrisy of class structures, the crippling plight of the underserved, and the due redistribution of wealth as refreshingly unfiltered and even courageous. (You can watch a clip here of Brand haughtily comparing himself to Gandhi, which is an immensely ballsy move of dubious taste that is nonetheless totally, uh, on brand...)
Brand's unpredictable journey from envelope-pushing, Hollywood-approved entertainer to a current and growingly popular figure and eyebrow-raising interlocutor within the highly-public forum of global politics has already been captured in two high-visibility documentary projects that each star the actor-turned-activist, including The Emperor's New Clothes, from celebrated avant-garde medium-hopper Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People, The Road to Guantanamo), and BRAND: A Second Coming from award-winning documentarian Ondi Timoner (Dig!, We Live in Public), a Tribeca alum who wrote, produced, and directed the feature.
The Winterbottom film made its international premiere at this year's Tribeca Film Festival and is set for an official U.S. release in mid-December, but Timoner's treatment is beating it into theaters as BRAND is set to open in Los Angeles on September 25th at ArcLight Cinemas and in New York City on the following Friday, October 1st, at Village East Cinema, before expanding into more theaters nationwide. (Learn more here.)
Both BRAND and Emperor's offer in-depth portraits of Brand, a reluctant star, best-selling author, and inspirational former addict who has largely removed himself from the industry fast-lane to re-direct his life in a precipitously lofty direction as the sort of gleefully Mad Hatter of the modern vanguard who has sparked an affinity with many ever since his now notorious BBC Newsnight interview with a skeptically contemptuous Jeremy Paxman.
So, which film do you see? Why choose? Both films are worthy watches for those interested in Brand's rabble-rousing gears-shifting and both will be available to watch by the end of the year. In the meantime, here are the trailers for both documentaries and, if you're an L.A. moviegoer who's at all intrigued by the ongoing tale of a notorious debaucher turned political provocateur, A Second Coming arrives in theaters tomorrow.