Remote Access

with George

Category: Documentaries

Man with the Movie Camera -1929- Old Joy -2006-

Film is a universal language? Maybe. But I think storytelling is the language and film is the dialect.


Somebody on Flixster called Man with the Movie Camera “Communist propaganda.” I missed that part. I didn’t see any communism here. I just saw a day in the life of the streets in the Soviet Union.

I understand why this movie is important. That’s not to say I didn’t like it, because I did, but I could never love it. That’s because I love narrative, and this didn’t have enough of it. It shouldn’t have had more, though. I’m glad that someone did something this different.

It took awhile, but I warned up for this film. At first, I thought this would be a “one night stand” movie (top 10 list coming soon, I hope)… a film I only saw once. But now, I might see it again, and I’ll probably enjoy it even more the second time. (Still no love, though.)

I will never love Old Joy either, but that’s for another reason: it wasn’t a good film. Spoiler alert: nothing happens. The last five minutes is, for me, the only rewarding part. If I may hate on C-SPAN for just a moment, an hour of Old Joy is equal to an hour and a half in C-SPAN time.

Man with the Movie Camera: there are worse ways to spend an hour. ***

Old Joy: there are worse ways to spend an hour, but that doesn’t mean you should watch this movie. **

Notes:

  • How about that pre-Claymation in Camera?
  • Both of these films are available now on Netflix Instant, but Man with the Movie Camera will expire on November 1.
  • If you see and find beauty in Man with the Movie Camera, I suggest you see My Winnipeg.
  • Coming soon: October Recap and the final 70s poll.
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The Life of Reilly (2006)

***½

Charles Nelson Reilly was born in the Bronx. January 13th. I hadn’t heard of him before watching this documentary. He was very, very excited to tell me his story, though.

Reilly’s appeared in many plays and TV shows, but is, according to Wikipedia, most famous for being a panelist on a game show called “Match Game.” The Life of Reilly is actually his comedy act, and in the film, he is performing it for the very last time. His good luck sign, according to him is rain. He noted that it was raining the night this documentary was taped… the final night of his show. The night in which he would recap his entire life’s story.

He seems to be improvising his entire act. He starts off at one point, goes on from memory, then just says whatever he recalls about the subject. But everything word he utters is filled with emotion. His act isn’t all comedy. He talks about his father being institutionalized, his aunt getting a lobotomy, as well as his uncle’s “active social life.” And when his audience reacts negatively to something “surprising” he says, Reilly quickly exclaims “well, it’s that kind of show!” From joy to sorrow, it’s all here, in this show.

He has a rather lonely childhood, but describes his first encounter with a theater very warmly. That is where he belongs. This entire movie is staged within a stage. I think that touch was fitting, since so much of his life was hoping to be, wanting to be, and then, finally, being onstage. His mother always told him to “save it for the stage.” And he did.

Stray notes:

  • The end scene, in which he is talking to the pelican, is the best. Very heartwarming.
  • Reilly reminds me of numerous relatives. Many of them are insane.
  • “My mother didn’t know whether to s*** or go blind. That’s an old french theater term.”

The Thin Blue Line (1988)

****

The Thin Blue Line begins with a cop stepping out of his car. As more people and points of view are added to this action, the story gets longer.

The characters in Errol Morris documentaries are always vivid. In fact, they’re more vivid (and therefore more unbelievable) than the wildest characters in the wildest soap opera dramas. And some of them are just as unintentionally funny as those ridiculous characters too.

The smug smile on the blonde, red-faced woman. The “choc. liquid” found on the side of the road. The subtle sexism at the Dallas Police Department. These are small, humorous, and perfect details that don’t need to be in this movie. But they are, and they make it great. Attention to detail this acute is not often found in cinema.

The 1988 documentary follows the events of a fall night in Dallas, Texas, when a police officer was shot while on duty, and the consequences stemming from it.

One of the brilliant strokes of this film is the ending. The final interview, which was taped, shows no faces. All the emotion comes from the tone of David Harris’ voice. Sometimes, fact is more compelling than fiction. That is certainly the truth here.