nanook and me – imagining the view of the fly at the wall

The New Yorker has an extensive article on the recently all-around film style and critique of documentaries reviewing both, history and la vérité . And despite the conclusions here on M.Moore’s film, which by the way is very worth to see, it just points nicely out the ambiguity of the essential belief of general truth in front of a camera, whether pretending or not to be using eye, hand and mind of someone behind it.

The notion of the documentary as a plotless, commentary-less, vérité-style record of life as it is-the notion of the documentarian as a fly on the wall-was born in the nineteen-fifties. Lighter and more mobile cameras were less obtrusive, more suited to capturing subjects “off camera.” High-speed film opened up interior spaces. But the fresh variable was sound. In the late nineteen-fifties, the American filmmaker Robert Drew helped to perfect synchronized sound shooting. He also understood the key to creating the kind of documentary that the new equipment made possible: access. You get in the door, and then you just hang around until people forget you’re there…. more

A more radical solution is not to enter the frame but to break it. Errol Morris opens “The Fog of War,” his recent documentary on Robert McNamara, with a scene in which McNamara is explaining, “off camera,” what he intends to say once the interview starts. This is more than an “it’s only a movie” disclaimer-as though anyone might doubt that it is. It’s a reminder of who is controlling the narrative. It’s consistent with Morris’s tendency to photograph McNamara in a way that makes him look off balance and dishevelled, a little too hot for the camera….more

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