2 April 2004 | cherold
flawed but interesting talking heads
This movie is full of terrific interviews with important documentary directors and some fascinating clips from their films, but it's rather poorly constructed. First off, it implies that previous to the cinema verite movement documentaries were pretty much nothing more than civil defense training shorts. There's no attempt to give an idea of what good documentaries were like in the 40s, so while we are told there was a film revolution we don't see what came before. The film loves to trot out little bits of really bad old documentaries and thinks it's cute doing so, but it's really just distracting and unnecessary.
In the last part the film loses structure as it dips into things like shaky camera TV series and MTV videos. Yes, cinema verite influenced those things, but it was also influencing the work of people like Richard Lester back in the 1960s, so why act like this is a new thing?
On the other hand, the people interviewed are thoughtful and intelligent and if your a film buff you'll want to see what they have to say. Here the director seems to do a good job, as one hears telling comments about key scenes. The only interview handled poorly is with Wiseman; they show almost none of his footage and chop up his interview in what I suppose they think is a funny fashion. Perhaps they were uncomfortable with his attitude; he spends a lot of time questioning the whole "verite" concept. Seems like a very smart, thoughtful guy; I wish they'd let him speak.
Worth watching, but could have been much better.