Author Topic: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary  (Read 23137 times)

skjerva

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Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
« on: February 05, 2009, 01:17:21 PM »
« Last Edit: February 10, 2009, 10:09:25 AM by skjerva »
But I wish the public could, in the midst of its pleasures, see how blatantly it is being spoon-fed, and ask for slightly better dreams. 
                        - Iris Barry from "The Public's Pleasure" (1926)

smirnoff

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Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2009, 09:56:28 PM »
Tupac Resurrection (Lauren Lazin, 2003)

This is a documentary I would not have seen without the FDC. Not because I wasn't aware it existed, but because my musical tastes have changed. There was a good five year span between the time I last listened to a Tupac track and the release of this film. With my passing interest in the music went my curiousity about the lives of the artists responsible for it. I should say it's not that I came to dislike the music, I just tired of it that way I tire of anything I listen to. Heck, half the stuff I put on my top 20 albums list probably wouldn't be there if I took a second look at it today (sorry Rush  :(). But anyways, though I may not listen to Tupac's music anymore, it certainly left an impression on me.

With that in mind it should be understandable that I wasn't hugely psyched when I got this assignment. On the other hand I was aware of this doc's reputation as a very good film. I now agree with that general sentiment. I wasn't quite sure how this story was going to be presented, but it's just like the tag line says, "In His Own Words". You get a stitched together (quasi-auto)biography with narration by Tupac himself, culled from interviews.

Tupac's life story has become modern-day mythology, and this documentary does well not to get caught up in the romance, and hero worship. It lets Tupac say what he wants to say, and has the sense not to glorify it. It was really nice to get his side of his story. Ultimately I got the sense that he was man with a big heart and good intentions, but he had naive and arrogant side. He admits as much, and more. We all have our weak points, and use poor judgment from time to time, but we don't all have fame amplifying the impact. It goes with the territory though I guess, and different celebrities handle it different ways. Tupac's way seemed to be to ignore it. He says he follows his heart, and if people misinterpreted him there was nothing he could do. He felt that if he started taking measures to prevent that misinterpretation he'd stifle himself. It's probably one of those damned if you do damned if you don't situations.

When it was all said and done I was glad to have watched it. His is an interesting life to look at with the benefit of hindsight. Thanks to Gobman for the memorable experience. I would happily recommend the film to others.


Melvil

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Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2009, 02:34:05 PM »
Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003, Thom Andersen)

Los Angeles Plays Itself is a nearly three hour long documentary that you can kind of look at as a history of film as it relates to the city. It's presented in a way that examines many different aspects of LA (which I now feel guilty for calling it) as portrayed in movies, and then contrasts them with the reality. It may not sound that interesting, but I assure you it is.

The source of entertainment is, primarily, the many clips and sequences from films that are shown one after another to present the filmmakers points. Dozens (hundreds?) of films make appearances, used to show common elements, the differences in portrayal, stereotypes, etc. of many different subjects over the course of the movie. A lot of the clips are really fun, and it really did make me excited to see some of the movies. The narration is also well done and usually very interesting, tying different things together nicely, and both expressing the filmmakers love for his home city, and admonishing the film industry for the issues he addresses within.

Which brings me to my one and only complaint about the movie. The narration, as written by Thom, often goes way too far in annalyzing the films he's using to make his points. He reads significance into everything, and then treats anything short of reality as a great injustice. He makes generalizations that are often contradicted, and assumptions that are unfair and unlikely. And while I realize the scope of the movie does not really extend beyond LA, many of the points he brings up are true of filmmaking in general and not just applicable to one city, but you wouldn't know it from the way he tells it. None of this affected my enjoyment of the movie that much, but I occasionally found myself annoyed at some off-the-wall claim he would make.

I really had a good time with this movie. In fact, I kinda wish this was a series of movies all based around different cities. :)

Unofficial Bonus Dictation:

Titicut Follies (1967, Frederick Wiseman)

Titicut Follies is about the Bridgewater Correctional Institution in Massachusetts (that is, a prison for the mentally unstable). The movie is basically a series of scenes from daily life there. There's no narration, not much structure, and no attempt to explain anything or give it meaning, so you're really left taking the things that are shown for what they are. It really examines two things, crazy people, and the place where the crazy people are kept. The patients vary in craziness, some of them seem pretty normal on the surface, others, well, they're at the other extreme. I couldn't help but feel a little guilty in watching, as if just by observing they were being made a spectacle of, but I guess that's the difficulty with this kind of subject. The whole thing is very sad to witness, with the worst part being the conditions they are forced to live in. Their treatment seems to vary based on their mental condition, but many of them are treated more like animals than humans. They're kept naked much of the time, hosed down in place of baths, in one of the more difficult scenes to watch, a man is force-fed through a feeding tube while being held down on a table. There are multiple instances of borderline abuse from the staff, and although the administration seems to have the best intents, it's shocking to see what the result is.

I'm aware this film was controversial when it was made, and while I can see why, it seems to me the issues it raises awareness on, intentionally or not, were needed at the time. Since then times have changed a lot, so none of that may apply directly today, but it remains an interesting historical movie.

skjerva, many thanks for introducing me to both of these movies, I owe ya' one!

duder

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Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2009, 09:25:04 AM »
Los Angeles Plays Itself

None of this affected my enjoyment of the movie that much, but I occasionally found myself annoyed at some off-the-wall claim he would make.

Yep, I got that as well, especially when he makes assumptions about people for praising a certain movie (usually one he doesn't like), but I was willing to accept it as an inevitable by-product of his intense passion for both the city and the movies.


I really had a good time with this movie. In fact, I kinda wish this was a series of movies all based around different cities. :)

Kinda makes me sad that no one's making movies in my city. Thought it was a nice coincidence that the only movie that has scenes in my neighbourhood (that I know of), also made it to this documentary :)   


Titicut Follies

I'm aware this film was controversial when it was made, and while I can see why, it seems to me the issues it raises awareness on, intentionally or not, were needed at the time. Since then times have changed a lot, so none of that may apply directly today, but it remains an interesting historical movie.

I'm not so sure you can reduce it to an historical document. Its themes are timeless, but even if you want to get specific, people locked up against their will based on questionable psychiatric diagnoses? Stories of abuse in psychiatric hospitals, orphanages and nursing homes? Hardly a thing of the past.
...

Melvil

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Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2009, 11:24:16 AM »
I'm not so sure you can reduce it to an historical document. Its themes are timeless, but even if you want to get specific, people locked up against their will based on questionable psychiatric diagnoses? Stories of abuse in psychiatric hospitals, orphanages and nursing homes? Hardly a thing of the past.

Yeah, you're right. I didn't mean to be that dismissive of it's value, there's definitely more to it that is still relevant.

worm@work

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Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2009, 05:29:42 PM »

Le Sang des bÍtes (Georges Franju, 1949)

Awww, were you looking for something to watch with that special someone on Valentine's Day? Here it is. See, all those lovely images of French kids playing Ring-a-ring-o'-roses in the park and beautiful young lovers kissing?

Just make sure you turn it off after like the first minute or so! This is a really short documentary that essentially looks at the working of a slaughterhouse right at the outskirts of Paris. It starts off really casual, almost disarmingly so. Just images like the ones above and a voice-over describing this particular locale outside Paris. The voice then goes on to describe the instruments or tools of slaughter. Here again, the description is mechanical and the voice is decidedly neutral. And then the white horse comes in.

From this point on, the movie is just relentless. It patiently goes through the procedural details of slaughter. The various methods in which these animals are killed, the process of disembowelment and skinning. I didn't have a good time watching all this. None of it was shocking necessarily. I was quite aware of the process involved even before watching this. Despite this, watching it was still really difficult and affecting. If I wasn't watching this for the dictator club, I might have closed my eyes at points but under the circumstances, I felt obligated to really watch it. I am not going to post too many screenshots here for obvious reasons but if this here bothers you too much, then you may want to avoid this.


In a way, this reminded me of High School in that the camera just seems to be at this place chronicling whatever is happening around it. There is a voice-over here but the voice-over mostly just discusses technical points. What makes this truly powerful is that the film never feels exploitative or jingoistic or sadistic. It manages to maintain a distance at all times and it never seems to be judging the process. The other thing that struck me is that the doc not only talks about the process but also takes great pains to highlight the skill and danger involved on the part of the people working in the slaughterhouse. Plus, its visually really stunning. Every frame is really poetic and moving and so many of them, even the ones outside the slaughterhouse really stayed with me.


Admittedly, this is not an easy watch. Nevertheless, I think it's a great documentary to watch. It's great filmmaking for one thing and is incredibly thought-provoking. Thor, thanks for a truly excellent recommendation. My dictation, however, is by no means complete. I am looking forward to watching the rest of your recommendations (albeit with a modicum of caution :) ).

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Grade: B+
« Last Edit: July 21, 2009, 08:59:52 PM by worm@work »

roujin

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Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2009, 05:35:25 PM »
fun!

Thor

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Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2009, 02:01:26 PM »
Woohoo!

I assure you that's the toughest one! I think...
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maŮana

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Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2009, 08:18:01 PM »
Los Angeles Plays Itself and Le Sang des bÍtes would, if I had one, go in my queue. They both sound pretty awesome.
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Bill Thompson

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Re: Feb MDC write-ups: Documentary
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2009, 10:10:25 AM »
Touching The Void (2003)



Letís get one thing out of the way, I donít care for documentaries at all. So those of you who will be puzzled by my dislike of this film, keep that in mind. I wouldnít even take the time to watch a documentary like Touching The Void, but being a member of Filmspotting I participate in the Movie Dictator Club and this month we covered the topic of documentaries. A good guy Smirnoff, the name already speaks for itself, I canít come up with any funny nickname to make Smirnoff any better or quirkier, assigned me Touching The Void. Long story short, I was taken by certain aspects of this film, but on the whole I was left disappointed and without satisfaction.

For the first thirty or so minutes of Touching The Void I was very interested, the visuals were impressive, the talking heads were interesting and I had yet to be pulled from the reality of the film. Unfortunately that interest waned as the movie droned on, the visuals were still impressive but they were more of the same again and again, the talking heads remained interesting, and the docudrama film making completely killed my ability to care about what was happening. But, for those first thirty or so minutes I enjoyed what I was seeing and I was into the story.

The docudrama style has never done it for me, because the only pull documentaries ever had on me was bringing me into a realistic situation, but the docudrama style removes the reality. Instead of watching them climb the mountain I am aware of the fact that actors are combing a mountain and a camera is filming them. In short, the actual climb the film is discussing isnít actually happening. In fictional films I can be transported to a place and even though I know it is being filmed the cameras donít register with me, but in the docudrama style they do and every docudrama scene took me further and further away from the picture. The other problem for me was the nature of the storytelling. I honestly believe Touching The Void would have been much better as a motion picture as opposed to a documentary, because then it would have been incredibly interesting. In the documentary format the story loses steam fast and Touching The Void becomes a boring, almost lifeless film, I know these men are going to survive, I have been taken out of the film by the docudrama style and this has created one boring middle and end to what started out as a promising movie.

Well Smirnoff, I tried, but this documentary just wasnít for me. I recognize the craft that was on display in creating the visuals and reenacting the climb. But, there needs to be substance to go with that craft, and in that department Touching The Void is sorely lacking. All the film needed to do was make me care, but it couldnít. So, with this foray into the world of documentaries over with I donít see myself revisiting said world any time soon.