Abel Ferrara’s concern with the relationship between presentational and subterranean truths is nothing new. In fact, the director’s greatest creation is a character called “Abel Ferrara,” a shambling, grizzled, reckless, perpetually drugged-up walking staph infection who just happens to have lined up financing for and successfully completed the shooting of twenty-some films since 1976—though Ferrara is careful not to let the mask slip before his public.
Tag Archives: Werner Herzog
Simply put, voiceover can kill ambiguity. And that’s what can differentiate a great doc from a good one. Audiences need to be granted space in which to think about what they’re seeing, space to make the movie their own. Otherwise, it’s just information. At the recently concluded Toronto International Film Festival, there was a glaring disparity between docs that used some sort of narrator and those that didn’t. You can guess which were more successful.
Roger Ebert reviewed movies with an accessibility that made him the most well-known movie critic in the world. But contrary to public opinion, Ebert could also be an outlier and an iconoclast, especially when it came to documentaries. Few mainstream critics have gone to bat for nonfiction films—not to mention formally adventurous docs that didn’t play by the rules—with as much vigor as Ebert.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that critics hailed Rodney Ascher’s Room 237, opening in theaters and on VOD this week, as Sundance 2012′s best documentary. The film is, after all, about critical interpretation. But the multilayered Room 237 is more than just a cinephile’s inside joke—it joins a long list of acclaimed documentaries that focus on the vagaries of truth.
If the animal world is often benevolent in the magical kingdom of Disney, these filmmakers have focused on the more quotidian realities of nature. Furthermore, it’s not the flip side of Disney’s goodness being put on display; these docs aren’t about nature’s malevolence or mystique, which would be just as hackneyed. Rather, they present an animal world that is arguably more threatening to Manichean views of the universe: neither sweet nor cruel, maybe animals are just indifferent.
This week Time Out New York released its list of the 100 Best movies shot in New York. All the Internet loves a list, and as such things go it’s well done, but while cycling through it I couldn’t help but think that perhaps the world—and American movies—would be a great deal better off if New York City got a little time off.
There’s a moment late in The Chair (1962), part of DOC NYC’s essential tribute to Ricky Leacock, when it becomes apparent that what you’re watching is great art, not merely a work of great artistry.
The #1 documentary of the year, and one of the most popular and critically acclaimed documentaries of all time, Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams is now available on SundanceNOW. If you’re not in a city where the film is currently, playing, you’ll have months to wait for the official DVD release.
Why not just get it NOW?