Saturday, February 09, 2013

David Thomson & Documentary Authenticity

At present I am winding my way through David Thomson’s “The Big Screen”, a colossal telling, in its own way, of “The Story Of The Movies.” Thomson, for no want of a different word, is awesome. I have a read a few of his books in the last several years and I have adored each one, pages stacked with relevant information and blinding prose. (I have yet to read his “biography” of Nicole Kidman. I put biography in quotes because from all accounts it less a biography than a 304 page mash note, which, I confess, is kinda why I want to read it.)

There has been a lot of consternation in the ol’ blogosphere recently about documentaries – how truthful they are and whether they circumvent some of the facts as a means to strengthen their narrative and just how much they owe us in regards to veracity. And just the other day a pair of sentences in “The Big Screen” regarding Leni Riefenstahl’s 1933 Nazi propaganda documentary “Victory of the Faith” blew my hair back. I could provide analysis about their meaning but would prefer to simply re-offer them here, un-commented upon, and let you read them and digest them and chew on them to your heart’s content.

“Victory of the Faith was a rehearsal, as well as a lesson that ‘documentary’ was a myth. The screen could not tell fact from fiction, and it was hell-bent (or heaven-bent, if you prefer) on ending the distinction.”

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