Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ondi Timoner

Ondi Timoner
's We Live in Public (2009) documents Josh Harris (above) who loses a tech-bubble fortune in the same way a careless lottery winner would: by blowing it all. Along the way, Harris intentionally rejects his family, friends, and investors by over-documenting himself. His volunteered lack of privacy in the name of a webcam "project" destroys a romantic relationship, for example. He also sends a coldly impersonal video message to his ill mother (second still). And, he undermines the value of the ventures he starts up with irrational behavior. Timoner's approach to making a documentary about such a hard-to-take main character is to focus on sweeping social movements and the origins of today's internet oversharing. Timoner edited copious amounts of home video footage to portray the crazy mid-90s time in New York City when a group of people willingly participated in Harris's experiments.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Alex Gibney

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (2010), by Alex Gibney, analyzes the political and personal aspects of the comedown of New York's former governor. The film captures the shameless cat-who-ate-the-canary satisfaction of Spitzer's powerful opponents, such as Maurice Greenberg and Ken Langone. Gibney hammers away at the Spitzer-haters but also provides balance by including women who knew Spitzer as an escort service customer. Top still, in the film's funniest moment, Cecil Suwal, the former CEO of Emperor's Club VIP, breaks out into infectious hilarity when asked by the filmmaker, "You said that he wasn't that interested in the companionship...?" Botton still: Alex Gibney at far left with his cinematographer, Maryse Alberti, getting ready for a re-created interview using the words of one of the escorts as a script.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Artist/satirist Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010) is a withering portrait of a quack, Thierry Guetta, who relentlessly videotaped street art in the US and Europe before becoming an artist himself. Appreciating the film's use of street art footage (one example is the sequence of a bit of plastic trash inflating to become a dog, above) videotaped by Guetta is well worth the chore of spending time with an unlikeable character. In fact, Exit is structured like a revenge movie: Banksy's payback against a nervy copycat. Perhaps Banksy is also poking fun at today's undiscerning art crowd.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman

In Catfish (2010), three young men (Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, the filmmakers, and Nev Schulman, Ariel's brother) set out on a road trip to meet a woman that they know only from her phone calls, text messages, and Facebook profile. During the film, the men joke about how it feels to get one's SAT scores back and that one of them wears an orthodontic retainer: they never seemed to have matured beyond the high school level. Is video documentation inherently exploitative or genuinely truth-telling? Two central characters, Angela and Nev, reveal their secrets as the film progresses. Angela's gentle visual portrayal, in natural light and close up, makes her deceit more ambiguous (first still). Nev's credibility is perhaps undermined by the constant gaze of the camera (second still).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Karpo Godina

The Yugoslavian filmmaker Karpo Acimovic-Godina's short film, About the Art of Love or a Film with 14441 Frames (14441 kvadrat, 1972) was distributed on DVD by Believer magazine last year. Godina documents male soldiers in training (such as these three, above), noting that they are kept separate from female workers at a nearby factory. The film imparts a timeless and witty anti-war/pro-love message.

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Documentary Starts Here by Nancy Kalow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.