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Documentaries, good and bad


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#31 dirac

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 03:16 PM

Thanks, innopac. In light of events that have played out over the better part of the last ten years, Abramoff's brand of sleaze seems almost innocent. "Inside Job" was excellent, BTW.

#32 dirac

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 03:24 PM

... and speaking of the Mayles, their cult classic "Grey Gardens" is well worth a watch, too. The brothers document the daily life of reclusive one-time socialites "Big Edie" and "Little Edie" Bouvier (yes, there's a Kennedy connection) Beale while their once splendid Hamptons mansion collapses around them, their cats, and some resident racoons.


I caught part of this on cable recently and although I have the greatest respect for your opinion, Kathleen, I couldn't watch it for very long. I felt sorry for them but it was all rather repellent and I couldn't find any reason to go on watching the poor things. I've sat through more repulsive sights, so I can't really explain this reaction.....

#33 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 07:09 AM

... and speaking of the Mayles, their cult classic "Grey Gardens" is well worth a watch, too. The brothers document the daily life of reclusive one-time socialites "Big Edie" and "Little Edie" Bouvier (yes, there's a Kennedy connection) Beale while their once splendid Hamptons mansion collapses around them, their cats, and some resident racoons.


I caught part of this on cable recently and although I have the greatest respect for your opinion, Kathleen, I couldn't watch it for very long. I felt sorry for them but it was all rather repellent and I couldn't find any reason to go on watching the poor things. I've sat through more repulsive sights, so I can't really explain this reaction.....


Oh, it's definitely uncomfortable to watch those two women disintegrate along with their house, all the while carrying on as if it were a completely reasonable way to live. And although they clearly revel in the Mayles' attention, you have to wonder if it wouldn't be the better part of valor to grant them the privacy they don't seem to want.

#34 Ray

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 08:11 AM


... and speaking of the Maysles, their cult classic "Grey Gardens" is well worth a watch, too. The brothers document the daily life of reclusive one-time socialites "Big Edie" and "Little Edie" Bouvier (yes, there's a Kennedy connection) Beale while their once splendid Hamptons mansion collapses around them, their cats, and some resident racoons.


I caught part of this on cable recently and although I have the greatest respect for your opinion, Kathleen, I couldn't watch it for very long. I felt sorry for them but it was all rather repellent and I couldn't find any reason to go on watching the poor things. I've sat through more repulsive sights, so I can't really explain this reaction.....


Oh, it's definitely uncomfortable to watch those two women disintegrate along with their house, all the while carrying on as if it were a completely reasonable way to live. And although they clearly revel in the Maysles' attention, you have to wonder if it wouldn't be the better part of valor to grant them the privacy they don't seem to want.


I agree that it's uncomfortable to watch--somehow more now than even before (I actually can't anymore)--but maybe remembering the historical context helps: what did the Maysles think the documentary needed to do in 1975 that it hadn't done before? This is the same kind of reaction/question I think many of us now have about the work of Diane Arbus, too.

#35 dirac

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 11:01 AM

Ray, my own suspicion is that the name Bouvier had a lot to do with getting this movie made. I do see what you mean by invoking Arbus but I don't find her photographs troubling in the same way and some of her shots have a warmth and humanityfor which they don't always get credit. Taking a picture is different in kind and degree from allowing/encouraging unfortunate people ramble on in front of the camera.

And although they clearly revel in the Mayles' attention, you have to wonder if it wouldn't be the better part of valor to grant them the privacy they don't seem to want.


Hard to say, isn't it? As you note, they clearly don't mind the camera and they probably enjoyed having someone take an interest, any interest. The question is whether you exploit that need, but I guess it's asking too much of human nature to ask a filmmaker to pass up such an opportunity.

#36 Kerry1968

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 11:41 AM

The best documentary I've ever seen is Into Great Silence by Philip Gröning.

#37 dirac

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Posted 22 January 2012 - 10:22 PM

Thanks, Kerry1968. I have not seen it. Was there anything in particular that you liked about it?

#38 Kerry1968

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 01:02 PM

Thanks, Kerry1968. I have not seen it. Was there anything in particular that you liked about it?



Oh yes. The subject matter (the daily lives of Carthusian monks in the Grande Chartreuse ) is interesting to begin with. But beyond that, Gröning's method of treating the subject is profoundly respectful. Because Gröning doesn't interpret what he sees.

There is no narrative to speak of, and no extra-diegetic matter (voice-over, music, etc) to help the viewer along. In short, the film makes no attempt to be an entertainment. It proceeds at its own pace and in its own way: 3-hours of tableux, with hardly a word spoken.

Nevertheless, the images Gröning captures with his camera are very powerful, and have a way of sinking into a viewer's consciousness. Sometimes, at the office, I'll find myself thinking about something I saw in the film: an old monk, racked with arthristis, working in his vegetable garden.

#39 dirac

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 02:14 PM

You know, you just jogged my memory - "Into Great Silence" was shown on EWTN not too long ago and I saw a brief portion of it before switching over to an event involving a local sports franchise. Damn, or perhaps I should say, darn......

Because Gröning doesn't interpret what he sees.


It sounds as if he's taken a page from Frederick Wiseman's book.

BTW, Kerry1968, welcome to the forum. :)

#40 Ray

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 07:40 AM

I just saw that this is screening at Sundance: The Queen of Versailles. No clip available, that I can find, but sounds interesting.

#41 4mrdncr

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 08:38 PM

What a weekend at Dance on Camera film fest! I saw that older doc on Makarova "A Class of Her Own" which I only had vague memories of, so was v. glad to see it again--esp. when Makarova herself showed up for the Q&A afterwards. Then saw the new doc about Jacob's Pillow --v. close to my heart because of my proximity to the site and many dance memories there! And finally, was very lucky to get a ticket to the new doc on the Joffrey Ballet: Mavericks of Dance which was great and great to see so many former and current Joffrey danceres in attendence. (But no mention was made during the Q&A afterwards about the major showing on PBS in the early years, or the Altman film most recently.?) Now will see "First Position" on Tuesday. Even an 8hr trip to NYC to see all the above was worth it--as was the ticket price (less than a normal movie here.) More later in whatever thread(s) appear for this topic.

#42 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 03:01 AM

I was very moved by Children of Chabannes -

http://www.childrenofchabannes.org/

A tale of courage, resilience and love set during WWII, The Children of Chabannes tells the story of how the people of Chabannes, a tiny village in unoccupied France, chose action over indifference and saved the lives of 400 Jewish refugee children. Filmmaker Lisa Gossels returns to Chabannes with her father and uncle, two of the 400 children who were saved. Through intimate interviews with her father and the other "children" of Chabannes, the filmmakers recreate the joys and fears of daily life in that village. .....


as well as Angels Too Soon

http://www.wttw.com/...2C7%2C1%2C1%2C2

On December 1, 1958, it was a cold and clear day as 1,600 students walked to Our Lady of the Angels school on Chicago's West Side. At the end of the day, as students waited for the final bell, a fire raged unnoticed in the northeast stairwell. By the time they become aware of it, the second floor hallway was filled with smoke, and six classrooms of fourth through eighth graders were trapped. Within minutes, 92 students and three nuns were dead. WTTW11’s Emmy-winning Chicago Stories series launches its 2003 season with Angels Too Soon, an unforgettable story of ordinary people caught up in a mind-numbing disaster. Told through vivid first-hand accounts and stunning archival footage, Angels Too Soon is also the story of a mystery that remains unsolved, despite the detailed confession of a 10-year-old student in the school.....



#43 California

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 04:46 AM

A must-see for anyone who cares about the arts and freedom of expression in the US or any other country: Degenerate Art (PBS, 1993). It was based on the reconstruction of Hitler's 1937 Entarte Kunst exhibit at the LA County Museum of Art in 1991. Principal funding for the exhibit and documentary came from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Federal Republic of Germany. Although it has been out-of-print for many years, you can find it in the collections of many public and university libraries. (Used copies of the LACMA catalog can be found on Amazon.com)

A companion docu-drama is Dirty Pictures (2000), with James Woods playing Dennis Barrie, director of the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center. Barrie was charged with obscenity when the Center showed the touring Mapplethorpe exhibit that caused so much consternation in Congress in the late 80s and early 90s. The film includes considerable actual news footage and shows much of the actual exhibit.

#44 bart

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 12:06 PM

What a weekend at Dance on Camera film fest! I saw that older doc on Makarova "A Class of Her Own" which I only had vague memories of, so was v. glad to see it again--esp. when Makarova herself showed up for the Q&A afterwards.

Classical Arts Showcase has shown portions of a documentary, looking as though it was down during the 80s, in which Markova (with a kind of beehive hairdo and looking rather like a close relation of the Queen) talks about her career. There are interviews with others from her era, and lots of excellent dance footage.

I never caught the name of the full documentary, but it seemed to be something made for British television. Would that be the same documentary you saw, 4mrdncr? Do you know whether it is available in dvd?

#45 innopac

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 12:10 PM

A Film Unfinished is a film about the Warsaw Ghetto. Some people I have told about it have said they just don't want to see the film because it will have disturbing scenes. But I feel this film is making visible what should not be forgotten.

The look in the eyes of the people as they are being filmed went straight to my heart.

I also think that the rating of the film is a real shame because it will stop the film being shown in high schools.

A Film Unfinished website http://www.afilmunfi...d.com/film.html

"For almost half a century, an unfinished Nazi propaganda film of the Warsaw Ghetto, simply titled “Das Ghetto” and discovered by East German archivists after the war, was used by scholars and historians as a flawed but authentic record of ghetto life. Shot over 30 days in May 1942 — just two months before deportations to the Treblinka extermination camp would begin. . . ." New York Times Review: http://www.nytimes.c...unfinished.html

"Two-thirds of the 31 year old Hersonski's film consists of the original Nazi propaganda footage - including out-takes. The rest is comprised in part of the wrinkled faces of a handful of Warsaw ghetto survivors grimly watching an actual screening of the film and offering commentary (some clearly remember the Wermacht cameramen at work). Using an actor, Hersonski has also re-enacted the actual post-war testimony of one of the film's original German cameramen (now deceased)." Huffington Post review: http://www.huffingto...e_b_682030.html


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