Recent documentaries

Saw "Bowling for Columbine" and while I like the argument Moore's making--that gun deaths are somehow related to a fear-obsessed culture--it's the way he says it that keeps me from buying his movie wholesale. He likes to lecture, he likes to pose, to make dramatic gestures. One of his stunts works, and I'm as surprised as he is; then he goes and harangues a senile-looking Charlton Heston--a bonehead, in my opinion, but still: what did he think he was trying to achieve?

Andrew Jarecki's "Capturing the Friedmans" asks smaller questions, particularly of a single family (though it does show us a disturbing tendency towards sexual hysteria on the part of American society), and its storytelling is, compared to Moore's, anyway, more self-effacing. I know Moore has a style--kind of folksy, for-the-people--that people love, hence his popularity, so it could be more a matter of taste. I like documentaries that show, not pontificate.

Perhaps the most disturbing moment in "Friedmans" for me is when we see one of the sons talking to the camera and declaring this video footage is very, very private. It gives rise to the question: how did Jarecki get this footage? He doesn't put himself into the picture, and I like that, but maybe he needed to, just a little, at least on this question of access. I'm thinking of what Charles Burnett did in his wonderful documentary "Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property," considering each literary and historical interpretation of Turner, then turning his camera on himself, and asking himself the same hard questions. (con't)


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