When Superman's work is done, he retires to a cramped apartment studded with Man of Steel memorabilia. When the Hulk reverts to human form, he's a wiry black man who was once homeless. Batman sees a therapist over his anger issues. These are the Hollywood Boulevard roamers for whom a costume, a smile and tourist tips keep their acting dreams alive, and Matt Ogens' thoughtful documentary, "Confessions of a Superhero," chronicles their fringe existence with an accumulation of detail, fractured hope and simple humanity that is hard to resist.
We get lots of gently quirky humor from their peccadilloes -- Christopher "Superman" Dennis' serious nature, Maxwell "Batman" Allen's constant reminders that he's a George Clooney look-alike -- and develop natural sympathy for their professional and personal struggles. (Jennifer Gehrt, a curvy Tennessee transplant who doubles as Wonder Woman, has unforced charm and a winning smile that the camera adores.)
"The characters," as they're known to the Walk of Fame businesses and the local cops, cannot aggressively solicit and must let pedestrians approach them. And it's all in the hopes of one day being famous enough to consider such attention a problem.
"Confessions of a Superhero." MPAA rating: R for some language. Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Blvd. (310) 274-6869.
Presidency of Allende examined
Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzman, living in exile since 1973, returns to his homeland for the unabashedly personal documentary, "Salvador Allende." Guzman explores the life of Chile's mercurial leftist leader who, after a 40-year career, was elected president in 1970, only to be toppled three years later by a U.S.-backed coup d'etat and replaced by the bloody regime of Augusto Pinochet and its 17-year reign of terror.
Through interviews with Allende's friends, family and colleagues, Guzman paints an intimate portrait focusing on the politico's turbulent three-year presidency. Plentiful archival footage presents throngs of workers supporting a leader committed to nonviolent socialist ideals within a democratic context. Guzman narrates and injects a tone full of lament in describing the events leading up to the military overthrow and Allende's eventual suicide.
Edward Korry, the former U.S. ambassador, bears witness to the U.S. involvement, recalling Richard Nixon's initial attempt to crush Allende economically, funneling millions of dollars into the country but failing to oust him via the electorate. While the film does not fully address criticisms of Allende's tenure, it does provide a fascinating and detailed account of the period.
"Salvador Allende." Unrated. In Spanish, English and French with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. At Laemmle's Grande, 345 S. Figueroa St., downtown L.A. (213) 617-0268.
Few kicks with 'Eleven Men Out'
Imagine David Beckham announcing he is gay and the circus that would create. Now, dial it down to an Icelandic scale, and you have the basic scenario of the shallow comedy, "Eleven Men Out." Mixing Nordic reticence and gay pride to create a quirky pastiche, writer-director Robert I. Gordon's film frequently misfires when aiming for humor but is really weighed down by an unenergetic story line built around family dysfunction.
Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson stars as Ottar Thor, a professional soccer star who rashly comes out to a magazine reporter resulting in his being dropped by KR, the team coached by his father (Sigurdur Skulason). Ottar quickly hooks up with an all-gay amateur squad and faces the ire of his alcoholic ex-wife, Gugga (Lilja Nott Thorarinsdottir), a former Miss Iceland, disaffected teen-aged son, Maggi (Arnmundur Ernst), and obnoxious brother (co-writer Jon Atli Jonasson) while trying to maintain a libidinous relationship with a teammate.
The film's deadpan tone works well for some of the eccentric supporting players, but Ottar is essayed so blandly as to drain the film of any life. Though the ultra-masculine world of professional sports is ripe for the taking, "Eleven Men Out" falls flat.
"Eleven Men Out." MPAA rating: R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes. At the Regent Showcase, 614 N. La Brea Ave. (323) 934-2944.