miércoles, 28 de mayo de 2014

Claims to Truth in Documentary Pt. 4

History Throws its Empty Bottles Out the Window

For this final installment of my series, let us look at perhaps the most enigmatic of these filmmakers, Chris Marker, and his approach to the notions of Truth and Signature. After having seen a wide sampling of his work, I find that, to approach a filmmaker like Chris Marker, one has to forgo any attempts at summarizing or finding a clear center to his work and instead must approach his work as the convergence of multiple interests. Marker’s filmmaking style has been usually called essayistic. Nora Alter, in dealing with Marker, reminds us that “to essay, within the French tradition at the time, meant “to assay,” “to weigh,” as well as “to attempt,” suggesting an open-ended, evaluative, and speculative search” (18). She goes on to add that the essay’s “weapons are humor, irony, satire, and paradox; its atmosphere is contradiction and the collision of opposites” (18).  I believe this is as close as one can get to a definition of Marker’s film work; yes, he is oftentimes humorous, ironic, satiric, paradoxical, but, above all, his work exhibits the never-ending presence of contradictions and opposing notions, as if the filmmaker were in a constant search for Truth but always recognizing himself the caveat, a humility of sorts, that such a search is futile. Thus, for Marker, I would assert, the task of filmmaking is about the search for truths, often banal, sometimes revelatory, but always many. 
Chris Marker

Having belonged to the Dziga Vertov group along with Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin, one finds in Marker the type of documentary filmmaking that characterized Vertov himself. Vertov’s mantra called for the “capturing of life unawares.” The camera eye, or Kino Eye as Vertov called it, possessed the capacity of registering things that the human eye was incapable of. Marker takes this mantra and commingles it with a personal montage style to construct not just films, but voyages into the heart of humanity. Marker’s work, thus, devotes its focus to those sites where humanity has deposited all that defines it; the archives of history and memory dominate Marker’s filmic gaze. Consequently, one finds in watching a Marker film the trite and the historically paradigmatic, the personal and the worldly, together, converging. Marker’s method functions in what I would characterize as an echo. Moments appear in his films which initially seem to have no import, only to return later as a marker of something relevant to his approach. All the while, Marker questions the dependability of history and memory alike, noting how in the example of film, images come to substitute any original memory one might have retained of the earlier moment. As the narrator of Sans Soleil (1983) expresses at one point in the film, 
I wonder how people remember things who don't film, don't photograph, don't tape. 
                How has mankind managed to remember? I know: it wrote the Bible. The new 
                Bible will be an eternal magnetic tape of a time that will have to reread itself 
                constantly just to know it existed.
One can see here an awareness of the act of filmmaking and life itself as a questioning of existence, defining existence as an attempt toward remembrances and the subsequent lapses in memory that accompany such an effort. 
From Sans Soleil

Marker’s approach is best captured in what is considered by many to be his masterpiece; the aforementioned Sans Soleil. Here, Marker can be found constantly blurring any lines usually held on to by the majority of documentary filmmakers. Sans Soleil captures life unawares (and sometimes fully aware) in various locations: Okinawa, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, L’île de France, Isle of Sal, San Francisco and Iceland. Through either the use of stock footage or the inclusion of images captured by Marker himself, these locations, mostly islands, are brought together, according to Nora Alter, by “Marker’s fascination with the dual literal and figurative meaning of island as an isolated monad separated from the mainland and operating according to its own, relatively autonomous flow of time” (104). The director’s female narrator reads letters received from “Sandor Kransa,” one of the many pseudonyms Marker used throughout his life as an artist. Sandor has been visiting all these locations, some for the first time, others in return voyages which bring about questions of how the writer has thought of the former and remembered the latter. With all these choices, Marker offers something that at points resembles a travel film or an anthropologic study, at others a historical review, and even at others personal home videos or collages. As a result, the same object possesses multiple forms, all of which, when brought together, capture a sense of what the Russian Formalists called “ostranenie.” The viewer finds him or herself questioning what is fact, what is fiction, whose experiences are truly being captured, and, more importantly, what does it all mean? 
From Sans Soleil

During the intro, the film presents us with three highly contrasting images. The first is the image of three children walking along a field in Iceland. The voice over provides some context to the image. 
The first image he told me about was of three children on a road in
Iceland, in 1965. He said that for him it was the image of happiness and 
                also that he had tried several times to link it to other images, but it never 
This image suddenly leaves the screen and in its place Marker chooses to leave the space completely black. At this point the voice over adds, “He wrote me: one day I'll have to put it all alone at the beginning of a film with a long piece of black leader; if they don't see happiness in the picture, at least they'll see the black.” However, along with the image of the children and the black leader, Marker includes the image of a fighter jet being put away inside an aircraft carrier. No mention of this image ever comes up during the intro or at any point during the rest of the film, for that matter. The image is just there. Right at the beginning Marker establishes a disconnect between the image track and the aural track. 
From Sans Soleil

Such a disconnect is key to Marker’s oeuvre. Like the New Wave filmmakers, which included the members of the Vertov Group, sound becomes an extension to the montage techniques available for documentary filmmakers to exploit. Various interpretations could be offered regarding the addition of the aircraft image: maybe Marker wanted to signal his history of activist filmmaking, which included critiques of the Vietnam War; perhaps he wanted to juxtapose an image of “happiness” with an image that calls attention to the bellicose nature of a modernity characterized by the military-industrial complex; perhaps, he wanted to signal a flash of some underlying memories in something that calls attention to the collective, historical unconscious; or maybe he wanted to train the eye to the multiple cuts that will follow. Whatever the case is, Marker never offers an explanation. Instead, in referencing the creation of the same film we are witnessing, he is calling on the audience to remain aware to the fact that they are watching a constructed object where the filmmaker ultimately has the privileged position. But I would contend that it also goes beyond this; in this sequence, the filmmaker is, I believe, showing the capacity of film to deal with the difficulties of recollecting the “moment” and the truths that originate from the moment. Thus, when asked about the film, each audience member will chose to construct his or her own narrative, much as the letters of Sandor Kransa are trying to construct the narrative of this particular construction. 
As the film continues, the voiceover constantly refers to different letters received by the speaker. One particular detail remains constant in the speakers narration of said letters; the speaker always prefaces her incursions with some variation of “He wrote me” or “He spoke to me.” If we consider that Sandor is Marker himself, then we see how Marker reinscribes the voice of the filmmaker in his film. However, this inscription is variously problematic. Firstly, Marker has opted for a separate personae, so while his symbolic voice is contained within the text embedded inside the film, Marker, it could be said, is seeking an erasure of sorts, a death of the auteur.
From Le fond de l'air est rouge (1977)

This notion isn’t new to Marker, an engaged Leftist, who in many of the works he directed prior to Sans Soleil opted to include his name in the credits as a technician along with the other “workers” involved in the films. Marker has always sought the erasure of his direct presence. But then, there’s also the fact that the physical voice “speaking the testimony” is someone other than the filmmaker. The physical voice is female, at a distance, away from the events in both space and time, witnessing them solely by way of the written text, but also disembodied; we are never allowed access to this narrator. Therefore, one must conclude that Marker seeks a total erasure by way of these multiple distancing choices. Yet, despite all of this, Marker’s signature manifests precisely because of these choices. After all, Marker is the one responsible for the text as well as for the majority of the images contained in the film. He is also responsible for the editing. But Marker’s signature, contrary to Wiseman’s silent disruptions or Morris’ physical vocalizations (see previous blog entries here at CineCero for more on these two filmmakers), works by way of a play of signification, a game of chance revelations, or what I would call Marker’s (fluctuating) assemblages of truth.
The assemblages of truth are at the center of Marker’s ultimate attempt at (and recognition of) various truths. And this play, a game of open possibilities, seemingly detached like a child’s act of playing, becomes the reason why Marker can at least question Truth in favor of some truths; the pieces of information, experiences, and recollections turn, in effect, into pieces to a game for Marker. Approached like a game, the search for truths admits variety over totality, playfulness over complete seriousness, randomness over stricture. And, as a result, this flexibility allows Marker to freely revisit instances in order to reinterpret “what once was.” This way, Marker recognizes the mutability of truths not just from the vantage point of personal perspectives but through the very perspective of changes through time and space.
From Sans Soleil

For example, close to the beginning of Sans Soleil, Marker’s camera captures Japanese citizens either sleeping or reading on a ferry that is taking them back to the Japanese mainland. The narrator tells us from one of Sandor’s letters, 
He wrote: I'm just back from Hokkaido, the Northern Island. Rich 
                and hurried Japanese take the plane, others take the ferry: waiting, 
                immobility, snatches of sleep. Curiously all of that makes me think 
                of a past or future war: night trains, air raids, fallout shelters, small 
                fragments of war enshrined in everyday life. He liked the fragility of 
                those moments suspended in time. Those memories whose only 
                function had been to leave behind nothing but memories. He wrote: 
                I've been round the world several times and now only banality still 
                interests me.
The mutability of history and memory are brought into question in the juxtaposition of the text and the images. While we are offered images of relaxation and stasis, the letter retrieves haunting memories of conflicts. Noticeably, neither indexical nor iconic references are contained in such an instance. Instead, we find Marker’s work emphasizing the third category of Peirce’s typology of signs; Marker opts for the Symbolic as his choice image. Thus, in conjunction with the voiceover, the images of Japanese people lying down in wait elicit the specter of Nagasaki and Hiroshima at the same time that they call forth memories of other conflicts around the world. That is why Marker adds images of Vietnam, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, and other locations where conflict has changed the face of history and scarred the memories of the modern subject. 
Later, close to the end of the film, Marker takes these same images, as well as the more trivial ones he has provided of cats, emus, and other animals, real or otherwise, and filters them through a visual digitizer. Speaking of the memories of a strike calling for the liberation of a Japanese activist in 1973 (elicited during a visit to Narita), Sandor’s letter tells us,  
My pal Hayao Yamaneko has found a solution: if the images of the 
                present don't change, then change the images of the past. He showed 
                me the clashes of the sixties treated by his synthesizer: pictures that 
                are less deceptive he says—with the conviction of a fanatic—than 
                those you see on television. At least they proclaim themselves to be 
                what they are: images, not the portable and compact form of an 
                already inaccessible reality. Hayao calls his machine's world the 'zone,' 
                an homage to Tarkovsky. What Narita brought back to me, like a 
                shattered hologram, was an intact fragment of the generation of the sixties.
From Sans Soleil

To begin, it must be pointed out that “Hayao Yamaneko” is none other than Marker again; another personae which provides additional separation while being spoken into the film. Marker is the one who owns the digitizer and the one who is removing the indexical and iconic characteristics of the images he has built throughout the film, instead deciding to provide audiences with images that do not contain the same nearness to the original moments, those moments which the conventional documentary seeks to capture. The solarized images bear an imprint of the original images, but fail in capturing a Real. Like footprints in the snow, Marker’s images of history and memory are voided from their direct referents; in the place of these erased images, we are called to supply our recollections of the earlier images, all the while questioning whether in fact we are capable of eliciting these images. After all, many of the images were taken in for their indexical or iconic reference. Now, bestowed with a malleable symbolic imprint, the audience finds itself in the same situation it would when attempting a recollection of his or her personal history, his or her personal memories. And like the snow that helped capture these moments, the film in its mechanical mobility -- a recognition of our experience of life as a collection of moments in time and space -- eventually “melts away,” leaving at its end a trail of “memories whose only function had been to leave behind nothing but memories.” As Catherine Lupton reminds us, Marker once took the liberty to rephrase the notion of cinéma vérité, deciding upon a different label which better defined his documentary philosophy; “Faced with (Jean) Rouch’s label..., with its troublesome connotation of some general truth discovered through cinema, Marker is credited with promptly rephrasing it as ‘ciné, ma vérite,’” i.e. cinema, my truth (84). 
What we experience in Marker’s films, then, is the convergence of these pieces, placed on an imaginary board which allow for a multiplicity of moves, operations, and outcomes. These pieces are then arbitrarily brought together, permitting Marker and the audience to create open-ended truths whose interpretation respects Marker’s and each individual audience member’s experience within a personal, social and historic context. The process proves malleable enough to permit variations, or assemblages of truths, that contest each other, moving away from any form of a totalitarian claim to Truth. 
Agnes Varda's Tribute to Marker
As I finish this series, allow me to consider this idea of Voice once more. At the start of her book Recording Reality, Desiring The Real, Elizabeth Cowie brings up the idea of the voice in documentaries. 
Documentary, in presenting the sights and sounds of reality, 
                enables reality to “speak” at the same time as it “speaks about” 
                reality. It thus realizes the desires that cinematography 
                inaugurated: of knowing reality through its images and sounds, 
                that is -- figuratively -- of allowing reality to speak for itself. (1)
I’ve tried to tease out the voices, or signatures, I believe can be found in each filmmaker’s work. Simultaneously, I’ve sought to analyze how these signatures mark each filmmaker’s claim to Truth or truths. Despite their admiration for the Flahertys and Griersons as well as the traditions these creators originated, I would assert that the three filmmakers here showcased exhibit a full break away from the traditional modes of documentary. Each style functions and achieves something different from the others. To claim that one style works better than the others is to not fully grasp each filmmakers attempt at discovering something otherwise left hidden. If anything, these directors have shown that “to assay,” “to weigh,” and over all, “to attempt” a Truth is part of the makeup of being human. If it is true (for lack of a better term) that “films cannot reveal the truth of events, but only the ideologies and consciousnesses that construct competing truths” (Williams 385), then at least in their work these filmmakers have revealed the dialogue that comes from these ideologies and consciousnesses. But above all, by simply engaging in the act of “speaking,” in one way or another, these filmmakers, I believe, are allowing for some level of “reality to speak for itself.” They may not grasp the Real, which is always already out of reach; but as I expressed before, for these filmmakers the documentary is “truly” ultimately about the approach, the need to explore, and not the need to answer. 
Each director here documented is invested in exploring his own notion of the truth. Thus, the idea of “ciné, ma vérite,” a notion that I would interpret as the individual search for a truth, grounds documentary to its traditional origins while it allows for the ongoing flexibility in its explorations. The arrival of digitized images offers an added “problem” to consider in documentary’s notion of Truth. Marker, I believe, was ahead of the curve in his recognition of the image as the inherent problem of a mode dictated by the visual register. Considering Marker’s notion, I would contend that, while the focus on the image worked for the tradition of the documentary as a way to explore truths -- starting with the Lumière brothers, on to Grierson and Flaherty, and later on with the three directors here showcased -- moving on in the digital age documentary as a form will need to focus on the development of the signature as its focus in meaning-making. Much as audiences tired of the capturing of the Real during the origins of the documentary, audiences in a post-Postmodern world, exposed to “reality television” will inevitably grow cynical to the idea of Truth, instead searching for a return to a “creative treatment of actuality” that actually allows for the Voice of the filmmaker to make his or her own personal statement. The inscription of the signature will then call forth a dialogue between filmmaker and audience. Therein lies the future of the documentary; in offering a space for truths to engage in dialogue, shifting the focus from the untrustworthy image onto the openness of Voices in dialogue. 

Previous installments: 
Part 1: http://cinecero.blogspot.com/2014/03/claims-to-truth-in-documentary-pt-1.html
Part 2: http://cinecero.blogspot.com/2014/04/claims-to-truth-in-documentary-pt-2.html
Part 3: http://cinecero.blogspot.com/2014/05/claims-to-truth-in-documentary-pt-3.html

Alter, Nora. Chris Marker. U of Illinois P: Urbana, 2006.
Cowie, Elizabeth. Recording Reality, Desiring The Real. U of Minnesota P: Minneapolis, 2011.
Lupton, Catherine. Chris Marker: Memories of the Future. Reaktion Books: London, 2005. 
Marker, Chris. Sans Soleil. 1983. Criterion Collection. DVD. 2007.
Rosenthal, Alan and John Corner, Eds. New Challenges for Documentary. 2nd Edition. Manchester UP: Manchester, 2005. 
Williams, Linda. “Mirrors Without Memories: Truth, History, and the New Documentary.” Rosenthal 59-78.

miércoles, 21 de mayo de 2014

Gordon Willis

No se si pueda en estas palabras de homenaje hablar desde un punto de vista técnico. Ante todo creo que los grandes artistas, los grandes maestros se quedan y trascienden por su capacidad de emocionar, provocar y de manera indómita estimularnos. Eso precisamente llega a mi mente al escribir estas líneas que intentan honrar al maestro de la cinematografía, el "príncipe de la tinieblas “como le llamaban: Gordon Willis, el gran maestro de la luz y de la sombra que abandonó el plano terrenal este pasado 18 de mayo.

El hecho de que su filmografía fuera una relativamente corta para un director de fotografía- 34 títulos en 3 décadas de trabajo- y por otro lado sea considerada tan influyente dan fe de la trascendencia de su arte, de lo cabal de su concepción fotográfica y como la ponía en practica. Si lo pensamos bien el ser el director de fotografía de quizás la trilogía mas conocida y celebrada de la historia del cine- The Godfather- y estar detrás de quizás la mas icónica y representativa imagen de las casi 50 películas de su compueblano niuyorquino Woody Allen- Woody y Diane Keaton viendo despertar a la ciudad desde el puente de la calle 59 en Manhattan- son ya razones para que Gordon Willis entrara sin reparos a la inmortalidad cinéfila.

Su carrera en el cine empieza relativamente tarde. Después de servir en la segunda guerra mundial y empezar allí a relacionarse con el arte de la fotografía, logro convertirse en asistente de cámara y eventualmente empezó a trabajar como director de fotografía en documentales publicitarios. De esa experiencia Willis famosamente diría: "aprendí a quitar en vez de añadir, no mucha gente entiende eso" filosofía de trabajo que le ayudaría a desarrollar una estética minimalista y precisa en donde mas allá de artificios, siempre buscó la manera mas simple, adecuada y pura de decantar y transmitir una imagen.

Su periplo en el cine de corte narrativo comienza con el filme de 1970 End of the Road de Aram Avakian. Acto seguido imparte su muy particular visión y manera de retratar la ciudad de Nueva York en dos joyitas del cine estadounidense de comienzos de los 70: The Landlord (1970) de Hal Ashby y Klute (1971) de Alan J. Pakula, en la primera a través de su lente, Ashby fue capaz de contarnos a un Nueva York muy común, con una inmediatez casi documental y un contraste profundo entre la realidad de la clase trabajadora y la mas acomodada. Es en el filme de Pakula donde quizás  empieza a ser reconocido por su rico y vasto uso de la sombra y los contrastes oscuros, presentando a una ciudad hostil, oscura, peligrosa. El filme de Pakula fue fundamental para el comienzo de la "deglamorizacion" del muy idealizado rol de la prostituta en el cine de Hollywood y el trabajo de Willis fue una parte esencial de ese resultado. Tanto así que Pakula volvería a trabajar con Willis en el resto de su excelente trilogía de "paranoia urbana" completada con The Parallax View en 1974 y All The President's Men   en 1976, ambas obras maestras en donde Pakula y Willis lograron capturar la tensión de tiempos turbulentos. El tándem Pakula-Willis se extendería por tres películas mas: Comes a Horseman en 1978, Pressumed Innocent en 1990, y la ultima película de ambos: The Devil's Own en 1997

En 1972 Willis fue solicitado, algo sorpresivamente para rodar The Godfather, digo sorpresivamente ya que Willis arrastraba consigo la reputación de ser una persona "difícil" al igual que el director del filme Francis Ford Coppola. The Godfather era para aquel tiempo un proyecto arriesgado que fue puesto en las manos de Coppola con las esperanzas de que este entregara al estudio de Paramount una pequeña y efectiva película de gansters que dejara algo de ganancias al estudio, sin embargo en sus manos el filme fue mutándose hasta adquirir las dimensiones épicas por lo cual lo conocemos hoy en día y se ha convertido en clásico, En términos cinematográficos The Godfather  hizo escuela y sentó pautas en Hollywood. Nunca antes una película de estudio de tal magnitud- y en colores- había sido fotografiada de manera tan oscura, con su concepción fotográfica añadiendo matices dramáticos a la saga de los Corleones. Fue idea de Willis la de fotografiar a Marlon Brando en su gran mayoría en planos cenitales lo que permitía entonces jugar con su maquillaje en un efecto que lo hacía envejecer. La oscura sobriedad niuyorquina del entorno de los Corleone era contrastada entonces con la luminosidad de Sicilia, de donde provenían y a donde se va el joven Michael con la esperanza de alejarse del "negocio familiar" a donde como todos sabemos será arrastrado violentamente de nuevo.

Durante las 3 horas de metraje la fotografía de Willis de la mano de la puesta en escena de Coppola nos mantiene absortos de tal manera que no importa cuantas veces la hayamos visto siempre recordamos escenas especificas en donde el contrapunteo de luz y sombra de Gordon Willis deslumbra: el productor hollywoodense que despierta abrazado a la cabeza de su caballo de carrera favorito ; Michael Corleone colgando las sabanas sangrientas después de desvirgar a su esposa siciliana ; el ajuste de cuentas en plena calle del volátil Sonny Corleone con el esposo de su hermana Connie; el posterior y sangriento asesinato de Sonny; la súbita muerte de Don Corleone. Claro está, Gordon Willis acompañaría a Coppola durante toda las sagas filmando The Godfather 2 en 1974 y en 1990, The Godfather 3 que le valdría una nominación al oscar por los ribetes operáticos de su fotografía, incluyendo su memorable secuencia climática en el Teatro de la Opera en Palermo.

Mas allá de su colaboración con Coppola en las Godfather quizás la mas trascendental de las colaboraciones de Gordon Willis fue con Woody Allen. En el documental Woody Allen: A Documentary, Diane Keaton  y otros recuerdan el asombro y la incredulidad con que fue percibida la idea de que Gordon Willis fuera el director de fotografía de la nueva comedia de Woody Allen. El dramático y sombrío Gordon Willis parecía la mas bizarra elección para filmar una película del "payaso" Allen. Sin embargo Annie Hall (1977) marcaria un hito en la carrera de ambos. Tanto así que el realizador niuyorquino  siempre ha responsabilizado a Gordon Willis del desarrollo de su educación visual y dominio pleno del medio y efectivamente la madurez de Allen como guionista y narrador llega a la par con la madurez visual que la colaboración con Gordon Willis le permitió dar a su cine. En Annie Hall fue donde primero aparecieron muchos de los sellos visuales del cine de Allen sobre todo las tomas largas y secuencias prolongadas en donde los personajes entran y salen de cuadro, una concepción visual de Willis que se me antoja muy humanista y de búsqueda de verdad. Si al personaje se le puede escuchar, ¿ porque tenemos que necesariamente verlo? Por otro lado la grisácea naturalidad de las escenas en Nueva York que contrastan con las escenas sobreexpuestas de una Los Angeles luminosa y tóxica al extremo. Y Annie Hall sería solo el comienzo.

Interiors (1978) con su mutada, sobria y seca concepción del color que la acercaban a las naturalezas muertas y a una realidad fotográfica desolada e impaciente sirvió de puente exquisito para una etapa en la que el cine de Woody Allen estuvo dominado prácticamente por el uso de blanco y negro, algo que su colaboración con Gordon Willis le permitía desarrollar plenamente. Si Annie Hall fue un hito en sus carreras, entonces Manhattan (1979) fue alcanzar una cima. Tanto Willis como Allen siempre se han referido a Nueva York como una "ciudad en blanco y negro" y entonces decidieron darle a una historia de corte intimista, toda la grandilocuencia y majestuosidad de la pantalla ancha y el blanco y negro. Desde la sentida e inolvidable secuencia inicial en donde damos un paseo por la ciudad amada por el protagonista Isaac Davis (Allen) que fluye orgánica y visceralmente matizada por las notas de Gershwin, a la ya mencionada escena icónica de Allen y Diane Keaton frente al puente, al sutil y melancólico intercambio final entre Isaac y Tracy (Mariel Hemingway) su muy joven enamorada. Manhattan es quizás el poema visual mas hermoso y definitivo que se ha hecho sobre dicho pedazo de la ciudad de Nueva York. Que 35 años después se siga recordando con rabia que la película no fue ni siquiera nominada al oscar por mejor fotografía, bueno, da rienda suelta a esa interminable garata que tenemos los cinéfilos contra la academia de Hollywood y parece no acabarse.

De la evocación a Bergman y su cinematógrafo Sven Nykvist en Interiors, Allen y Willis en 1980 pasan a la evocación de otro inolvidable tándem cinematográfico el de Federico Felllini y su director de fotografía Gianni De Venanzo en la muy Fellinesca Stardust Memories una película que cuesta mucho creer que fue fotografiada por un estadounidense. A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982) representó un receso en el trabajo del dúo con el blanco y negro y aunque es por mucho la peor película de dicho periodo en que trabajaron juntos no hay que negar la cualidad encantadora y luminosa de un Gordon Willis que retrata al campo de la manera mas idílica y juguetona posible.

Zelig representó otro gran logro del tándem Allen-Willis por el cual si fue nominado el gran cinematógrafo para el oscar. Un falso documental acerca de un hombre que fue un fenómeno para finales de los anhos 20: Leonard Zelig, el "hombre camaleón" fue un verdadero reto para Gordon Willis al tener que copiar la iluminación que se utilizaba en los años 20 para filmar, localizar equipos antiguos y personal de laboratorio e iluminación que hubieran trabajado en fotografía para aquel entonces. La imagen de Allen como Zelig fue insertada a autentico pietaje de los anhos 20 en donde compartia con figuras como Babe Ruth, Chaplin y hasta Hitler. Un proceso revolucionario para comienzos de los años 80 que abriría camino para todas las innovaciones que le siguieran desde Forrest Gump al CGI. El proceso de producción fue uno arduo de casi 3 años-larguísimo en términos de Woody Allen quien ni siquiera ahí interrumpió su ritual de una película anual- y Willis llegó a comentar que "pensé en un momento dado que nunca la lograríamos terminar"

La colaboración prosiguió en 1984 con Broadway Danny Rose, también en blanco y negro y una de mis películas favoritas de Allen, que aun hoy inexplicablemente se mantiene perennemente desconocida. Con la obra maestra The Purple Rose of Cairo en 1985 donde Willis de manera sobria, luminosa y sentida evocó el periodo de la gran depresión de los 30 contrastado con la nostalgia por las "comedias de champagne" de dicha época terminó la colaboración Allen- Willis. El cineasta niuyorquino no por nada, después de lo que llamó su  "etapa de crecimiento" junto a Willis- de quién llegó a confesar que incluso le delegaba ciertos aspectos y decisiones importantes en las filmaciones, algo que va notoriamente en contra de su reputación como un cineasta con control absoluto- pasó a trabajar con dos maestros cinematógrafos que admiraba: Carlo Di Palma, director de fotografía de Michelangelo Antonioni y el ya mencionado Sven Nykvist.
Gordon Willis continuó trabajando activamente hasta el 1997 donde decide retirarse por problemas de la vista e "impaciencia" como llegó a comentar el propio meticuloso artista. En la pasada década dictó varias conferencias y clases magistrales acerca del arte de la dirección de fotografía. La academia de Hollywood, en  uno de sus acostumbrados actos de mea culpa le otorgó un oscar honorario por sus contribuciones al arte de la fotografía en cine en los oscares del 2009. Hoy le damos gracias por sus imágenes, hoy nos recordamos mas que nunca de ese amanecer niuyorquino en blanco y negro frente al puente de la Calle 59.

miércoles, 14 de mayo de 2014

Why I go to the movies, with Lillian

by Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR

 (#2 in a series)

[preview screening: 5th Festival de Cine Europeo, sponsored by Alliance Francaise of Puerto Rico]

Nearly 12,000,000 undocumented immigrants now live in the US. More than half came from Mexico, and over 1,300,000 from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. From Guatemala alone, some 12,000 people manage to enter the US each year. Many make the trip by way of La Bestia, a series of trains that travel from Guatemala to the Mexico-California border. More popularly known as The Train of Death, it is a fearful journey filled with terror and uncertainty. Hundreds of men, women and children ride for 1500 miles on the top of freight cars, hanging on to their hopes of a better life in El Norte.

Stuffed in my pocket, my cell phone keeps buzzing. Right now, I'm far too engrossed in what's happening on screen to bother with incoming messages.  We are about half way along a journey from southern Guatemala, crossing the vast expanse of Mexico. Headed north, we're trying to get to Los Angeles. This trip is unimaginably arduous, and as we've heard, dangerous and life-threatening. It's not at all certain we will make it to the end. Two of our party of four are already missing. One decided to drop out near the Guatemala-Mexico border. The other, has just been taken away by a vicious gang, operating near Zacatecas, in central Mexico. The thieving bandits are also  kidnappers, who force their victims into slavery and prostitution. 

Juan is a sixteen-year old from the slums of Guatemala City. He's traveling with Chauk, the name given a young Mayan Indian who speaks no Spanish and who has been incessantly trying to teach us a few words from his language. Me, I'm holding onto the edge of my seat, listening to the Spanish, reading English subtitles, and trying hard to learn a bit of Tzotzil, hoping for a few clues to help sort nightmare from reality. Trouble is, there is no separation. 

The nightmare began in a tin shack barrio, Region 3 in Guatemala City, where Juan worked the streets, saved a few dollars and dreamed of escape from his dead-end existence. Juan enlisted Samuel, a  teenage friend who scrapes a living from mountains of garbage near their barrio. Together they enticed Sara, who, before they departed, turned herself into Osvaldo by cutting off her hair and hiding her pubescent breasts with tape and gauze. 

Juan's plan is to ride El Tren de la Muerte.  He's packed a few essentials into a napsack and sewed his savings into the lining of his jeans. Samuel travels light, just a t-shirt and a pair of sneakers. Sara has tucked her remaining strands of hair into a baseball cap to reinforce her new identity as Osvaldo. Catching the train is a nightmare which involves running along next to the train, grabbing a handhold on one of the cars and jumping up onto the moving train. They miss their first attempt. Waiting for the next opportunity, they encounter the young Indian, carrying a cloth bag and a large machete. Juan and Samuel are suspicious and resentful of the Indian. Sara is curious and intrigued.

Together, they catch the next train headed north. Pulling themselves to the top of a freight car, they settle in for a very long journey. Fortunately, the young Indian has brought some food which he tries to share. Juan and Samuel refuse. Sara accepts. The Indian begins his language lessons and Sara names him Chauk. Then, he falls asleep and dreams of snow, and soon we are lightly covered in metaphor. 

Chauk (Rodolfo Dominguez), Juan (Brandon Lopez) and Sara/Osvaldo (Karen Martinez)

When the train reaches the Guatemala-Mexico border near Tapachulas, Samuel gets off, choosing to return to the absolute poverty of his ghetto home. Juan, Sara and Chauk press on, until they are accosted by Los Zetas, the bandits in Zacatecas. Sara is kidnapped. Juan, nearly beaten to death, is saved by the ministrations of Chauk, who uses a salve of ancient Mayan plant medicine to treat Juan's wounds. As Juan lays recovering, he dreams of snow. When he wakes, the nightmare continues, unrelenting – until one last snowstorm, right before the closing credits.

Walking out of the screening room, we are swept to the middle of a cocktail party, and I discover Lillian deep in conversation with Diego Quemada-Dias, director of this, his first feature length film, La Juala de Oro,. Lillian quickly fills me in on Quemada-Dias' background: born in Burgos, Spain; works in Mexico and Hollywood; cameraman on films by Oliver Stone, Spike Lee and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu; adherent of a verite, extemporaneous style of filming, most likely learned working with Inarritu. Lillian says that he chose the young actors because they were inexperienced and untrained, which added authenticity to their performances. Most of their dialogue is ad lib, invented on the spot, based on outlines given to them by the director. The movie was shot on film, using super-16, light weight, extremely portable equipment, which allowed for filming documentary-style, riding on top of freight trains, crawling through tunnels, and running through the woods. Most scenes were filmed in actual situations, which allows the fiction of the story to blend with the reality of the moment.

I'm puzzled by the film's title. Lillian tells me it comes from a song by the Mexican band Los Tigres del Norte, an ode to the despair of undocumented migrants who quickly discover that working in the US as poorly paid laborers is like “living in a golden cage.” The song says:

De que me sirve el dinero,
si estoy como prisionero,
dentro de esta gran nacion,
cuando me acuerdo hasta lloro,
aunque la jaula sea de oro,
no deja de ser prision,

Curious about the recurring metaphor of falling snow, filmed at night – thousands of white flakes falling from a deep black sky – I turn to our companion for this private screening, the English translator of Mundo Cruel, Luis Negron's collection of stories about the gritty street life of working class Santurce. She tells me that the story of this film is a trip from hell, through hell, that ends in hell. The snow offers a faint glimmer of hope. If not an escape, it is at least a respite from unrelenting misery. She says it also represents the thousands of immigrants making their way north, following a dream, looking for a light at the end of the tunnel and trying to end the nightmare of being trapped in a life of abject poverty.

Juan and Chauk at the Mexico-California border

La Juala de Oro is not the first film on this subject. Cary Joji Fukunaga's 2009 Sin Nombre tells the story of a teenage Honduran girl and her frightful encounters with a Mexican gang while riding the train trying to get to the USA. Quemada-Dias's film may be the first attempt to direct the story to audiences on both sides of the fence separating South America from El Norte. South of the border, the message is clear: you will travel at your own risk, and face the likely chance of being robbed, beaten, raped if you are female, arrested by the police and/or captured by Immigration and sent back to where you started. For the US audience, living north of a border, for all intents sealed from intrusion, the film puts you in the shoes of someone desperate enough to take those risks for a slim chance at a better life.

Is the risk worth it? Ten years ago, Frida Hinojosa rode the train from Tapachulas to find work in the US. In an article in the BBC, she says, "I saw a mother whose child died on the train and she had to bury him on the Mexican side of the border before continuing her journey. I saw rapes, I saw murders. Knowing that I was doing this for my son gave me the strength and hope to keep going. Now he's a grown-up, God bless him, and we are together.” Asked if she would do it again, she replied without hesitation, “Of course I would. Everything I got here makes it worth the ordeal. I wouldn't have achieved anything if I had stayed in Mexico. Most migrants on the train shared a dream. We were in it together.”

Brandon Lopez (Juan), Diego Quemada-Dias (director), Karen Martinez (Sara/Osvaldo) and Rodolfo Dominguez (Chauk) at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival where they won the Un Certain Regard (A Certain Talent) award.

102 min
October 2013
Directed by Diego Quemada-Diez. Screenplay, Quemada-Diez, Lucia Carreras, Gibran Portela. Camera (color, widescreen), Maria Secco; editors, Paloma Lopez Carillo, Felipe Gomez; music, Jacobo Lieberman, Leo Heiblum
Staring: Brandon Lopez, Rodolfo Dominguez, Karen Martinez, Carlos Chajon. (Spanish, Tzotzil dialogue)
An Animal de Luz Films, Machete Prods., Kinemascope Films production

Related article about "The Beast" from New York Times:

Stowaways Are Stranded in Mexico by Train Ban


martes, 6 de mayo de 2014

Claims to Truth in Documentary Pt 3.

The Real Speaks

Contrary to Frederick Wiseman, whose physical voice never becomes part of the elements captured in his films, Errol Morris constantly finds ways to reinscribe his voice, both physically and authorially, in his work. As a matter of fact, despite expressing admiration for Wiseman, Morris makes a point of emphasizing that his work is far from the Direct Cinema or cinéma vérité style usually aligned with Wiseman and other filmmakers of the latter’s ilk. In an interview, Morris observes that 
"[t]here’s a whole style to cinéma-vérité -- you take very light equipment, use available light, follow the action, remain as unobtrusive as possible. I do the exact opposite.... These people are performing for the camera. They’re perfectly aware of what’s going on." (Bloom 4)
Errol Morris

Morris, a former private detective, employs the documentary -- he prefers the term “nonfiction film” -- as a mode of investigation. Morris’ nonfiction films usually take on a subject -- the failure of justice and capital punishment, the pet cemetery industry, a former U.S. Secretary of Defense, the incident at Abu Ghraib -- and deconstruct it to its elements, searching for a truth by way of multiple accounts and perspectives as well as the use of multiple narrative modes. 

Stylistically, Morris’ work exhibits certain consistent traits: the films employ low-key lighting, similar to the type one would find in an American Noir film; reenactments share the same filmic space with interviews and testimonies; music, oftentimes by Phillip Glass, drives the rhythm of the “plot” the same way one would find in any suspense film. But more importantly, for the film’s interviews, Morris has devised a particular system which he’s called the Interrotron, which sets up two screens, one in front of the interviewer, the other in front of the interviewee, from which each party can engage with the other as if it were in a face-to-face interview. That way, Morris can have his subjects break down the forth wall, as they look towards the camera.
Morris and his Interrotron

This method has expanded, to the point where now Morris uses what he calls the Megatron, the same system whose difference lies in the use of (oftentimes) over four cameras which allow the filmmaker to recompose the image during the same interview. Thus, as one absorbs the trajectory of Morris’ work, one notices an increasing tendency towards a more ornate filmic construction which blurs the lines between the traditional documentary film and the Hollywood fiction film. With regards to this style, particularly as it pertains to reenactments, Morris has expressed in an interview his reasons for such a choice.

"Now, I’m very fond of pointing out to people, people talk about reenactments, “why do you use reenactments?” I like to point out that reality is reenacted inside of our skulls, routinely. That’s how we know about the world. We don’t -- We walk around in the world. The world isn’t walking around in us. We take in evidence with our senses. And we try to figure out on the basis of what we learn, what we read, what we see, what’s out there." (Meyer)

This tendency has elicited the scorn of various critics who believe that the use of these appendages in conjunction with the indexical material disqualifies Morris’ claim to Truth. 
Despite all of these embellishments, other critics like Brian Winston have lauded Morris’ films for approaching a brand of truth otherwise inaccessible; a type of truth achievable only with the use of what Winston calls the “dramadoc.” Winston, a historiographer of the documentary form, has noted how the attack on the use of the reenactment is a break with the form’s acceptance of such a method in the past. 

"What matters here is that the creation of a form, ‘dramadoc,’ which is all reconstruction, has helped cast the use of reconstruction in the old form, ‘documentary,’ into doubt. In so doing, it served to confirm the triumph of the journalistic ‘fly-on-the-wall’ Direct Cinema style as being the only legitimate documentary form. The result was that documentarists were now lambasted about the ‘reconstruction’ they had always used, directly denying one of documentary’s foundations." (Lies 25)

Initially, one would find the idea of using and, oftentimes, prioritizing these elements -- lighting, mise-en-scène, extra-diegetic music, a variety of multi-speed and multi-sensitive film stocks -- to go against the documentary’s claim to Truth. As Bill Nichols has noted, when viewing a documentary, audience members take what occurred in front of the camera (the profilmic event), and the “historical referent” as being “congruent with one another. The image is the referent projected onto a screen. In documentary we often begin by assuming that the intermediary stage -- that which occurred in front of the camera -- remains identical to the actual event that we could have ourselves witnessed in the historical world” (25). 

However, therein lies the presence of the signature in Morris’ films. Morris as the filmmaker makes no bones about the hyper-constructedness of his films. In a sense, he needs the films to emphasize the iconic, not the indexical, since all the events he chooses to “document” have already passed, much as they did for someone like Flaherty. It would seem that for Morris the filmmaker has to saturate all the senses, cause them to tire and become lax, and once he or she achieves this, peel away the layers of simulacra, the veneer of each situation, thus giving rise in the audience to what can be described as a hyperawareness or “wink” on the part of the director. Morris’ highly lauded The Thin Blue Line contains an example of this method. 
The Thin Blue Line (1988)

The Thin Blue Line weaves together the details surrounding the 1977 murder of Robert Wood, a Texas police officer, as well as the eventual conviction of Randall Adams as a result of incriminating testimony. Morris brings together about six different reenactments of the testimony provided by various witnesses to the crime, newspaper clippings, photographs, forensic documents, and has these share a filmic space with direct interviews with some of the actors, including Randall Adams himself. Consequently, as Elizabeth Cowie has written with regards to the use of the image in documentaries, “[the image] becomes narrated in the transformation of the document into the documentary as a presentation of the facts and the testimony of participants in the events and action shown” (31). Employing all this material, Morris builds a narrative space where diverging accounts converge, never seemingly prioritizing one over the others. However, as the film progresses, and without the need for Morris to speak up until the end, the audience can tease out which side the filmmaker aligns with. In the process, Morris subverts the witness accounts, including that of David Harris, the person who we ultimately find out allegedly committed the crime. 

Morris’ signature can be perceived in the sequence that includes the testimonies of Emily Miller, Robert Miller, and Michael Randell, the three key witnesses of the prosecution. Morris has shown in his work to have an interest in odd characters and these three personages fit the bill. During the trial Emily Miller came forward stating that she had seen Adams in the driver’s side of the vehicle and that she had witnessed the moment when Adams supposedly shot Officer Wood, going so far as to say that she saw his face clearly out the driver’s side window. Robert Miller, Emily Miller’s husband, who was driving the car as they passed the stopped vehicles, simply maintained his wife’s testimony. Michael Randell, who was also driving past the scene moments prior to the shots, also testified to seeing Adams’s face clearly. These three testimonies are believed to have been main reason for sending Adams to jail. However, during his interviews, Morris allows the witnesses to debase their own testimonies themselves. First, Emily Miller and Robert Miller are portrayed as a dysfunctional couple and in dire need of money, since Mrs. Miller had been laid off two weeks prior to the testimony in the Adams case for stealing at her job. 
Emily Miller in Morris' The Thin Blue Line

Morris edits in moments where Mrs. Miller expresses a desire throughout her life to be a detective, or the wife of one, so that she could be involved in deciphering crimes and finding the culprits, longing to beat the police in the resolution of a crime. After this information, Morris provides instances that would allow audiences to start questioning the veracity and integrity of the Millers as witnesses. For example, the husband, who is portrayed as just following his wife’s will, goes as far as to admit that his wife once called in the authorities after they had had an argument, accusing him of smuggling drugs from El Paso which allegedly turned out to be a false accusation. The film also shows the Millers doubting the entire sequence of events and the details attached to the case. Mr. Miller constantly states on camera that he didn’t see anything, “but she did” referring to his wife. Mr. Miller even adds that his recollection of the man that night didn’t accord with the man he eventually saw in court.  Mrs. Miller herself states at one point of her testimony on film that “it was hard to see in that car.” Morris intersperses these comments with images of text reading “too nosey” and “$21,000.” These flashes, which apparently come from the transcripts of the trial, punctuate details the same way that a crime scene photographer would capture at the scene of a crime. But instead of a knife or bullet holes, Morris’ choices feel as if he is commenting on the details themselves. According to other participants, and the Millers themselves, they got involved in a situation in which it is questionable if they actually had anything to offer in the first place. The sequence of events as Morris constructs it would indicate that the Millers could have as easily not been at the scene of the crime, but moreover, that their entire motive to provide information to the authorities was the $21,000 offered for any information having to do with the crime. 
Michael Randell in Morris' The Thin Blue Line

Michael Randell is presented using the same technique. Randell, a salesman, claims to have photographic memory, an ability that allowed him to recall the vivid details of that night. However, in an almost humorous sequence, Morris’s camera finds Randell doubting his own details. 

"I'm a salesman. And you develop something like total recall. I don't forget places, things, or streets, because it's a habit. Something I just picked up. I just stare intensely at people and try to figure them out. Being nosey, I just stare. 
I was leaving the Plush Pub one night, driving a 1977 Cadillac, heading west on Hampton. I noticed a officer had two individuals pulled over to the curb in a blue...some type of vehicle. It was...it was a blue...it was a blue...I think...it was a blue Ford. It was a blue something.
The driver, I think had long blonde hair and a mustache. And the other one didn't have no hairs on his face.
A person that's white going through that area at night - he's a sore thumb to stick out for the first reason. And if they don't look right, they're gonna stop you.
The officer, he walked up to the vehicle. He had walked up. His car was...let me see...I don't know if it was behind or in front, but I knew he had him pulled over, and he was up to the car. I think he was up to the car. Let me think. Yeah he was up to the car... and I was going by... he had to have been up to the car. I didn't see no bullet. I didn't see no gunfire. Because I went on." (Morris)

In the act of allowing the witness to speak uninterrupted, and in the way Morris picks and chooses the moments in which to present the reenactment or to present Randell’s confused looks, seemingly searching for the details in his memory bank, Morris is actually “speaking” himself, addressing the audience by presenting how faulty this witnesses’ recollections are; in other words, and here I agree with Elizabeth Cowie’s reading of Lacan with regards to Truth, Morris becomes “Truth’s witness.” As Lacan has pointed out “Truth draws its guarantee from somewhere other than the Reality it concerns: it draws it from Speech” (qtd in Cowie 27). Morris juxtaposes Randell’s account of seeing two men in the car against the Miller’s testimony of just seeing one man in the vehicle. Randell goes on to accuse the Miller’s of fabricating their testimony just to get the money. In the way it is all presented, Morris is in essence commenting on -- “witnessing” -- the inconsistency of the testimonies, a detail which according to Morris should have been enough to raise a red flag in the decision of convicting a man to death. But as Randell states in his final appearance in the film, 

"They already decided what to do with you in the hall. That's why they call it the Hall of Justice --- the scales are not balanced. The scales are in the hall, and they go up and down. They might go up for you in favor one way and they might go down against you. So if they DA wants you to hang 15 or 20 years, you hung."
David Harris in Morris' The Thin Blue Line

But perhaps the clearest instance of a signature in Morris’ film involves David Harris and his testimony. Throughout the film, Morris comes back every so often to both Harris’ and Adams’ contending versions of the truth. We see Harris grappling with his recollections, constantly looking off into the horizon; Adams never minces words, seemingly having the capacity to retrace all the details of his whereabouts and experiences of that night. We see Adams dressed in jail clothing, his last name clearly on display on the screen. Harris, however, is only show wearing a collared, orange “shirt.” Morris’ mise-en-scène during the Adams interview segments include the grilled partition that separates inmates from visitors. For Harris’ interventions, Morris opts for what looks like tiled columns in the background, omitting any markers that could inform the audience of the location. As the film progresses, Harris becomes more and more cynical and forgetful, his statements often punctuated by an “I guess” or an “I don’t know.” Eventually, at the hour twenty-five minute mark, during one of Harris’ last instances in the film, he’s recounting the events after he identified Adams on a police line. Right at the end of the sequence, Morris’ camera unexplainably lingers on Harris for an additional beat. It is at this time that Harris lifts up his hands to scratch his head that we see that throughout the entire film he has been in handcuffs. Suddenly, the orange shirt gains new meaning as do the tiled pillars behind him. At the time we find out Harris was on death row for the killing of a Texas man. Morris, by choosing the way he composed the shot, withholding details of location, and selecting when to edit, has manipulated the amount of information the audience has received from him. Moreover, Morris reveals the artifice of his own film; much in the same way that all the witnesses and records have manipulated the act of narrating for their own purposes, Morris exposes that he himself has been constructing a narrative, molding it to his film’s needs.   Thus, Morris’ use of evidence in his films aligns with Spence and Navarro’s idea that “when it appears in a documentary, evidence has already been interpreted by the documentarian and arranged in a particular way; its impact ... usually the result of this kind of arrangement” (40). 

The filmmaker’s voice has been prevalent all along. But now at the end of the film, Morris decides to also include his physical voice in the film. And the construction of this moment speaks volumes about his choice. According to Morris, he was granted only one day to access Harris for interview. During the second session, Morris’ camera jammed. Rather than stop, Morris decided to record the rest of the interview with audio tape only. During this encounter, Harris opens up to the point where he ultimately admits to having committed the crime himself, and that Adams was a scapegoat, a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Aside from the importance of this testimony for the eventual exoneration of Adams, the cinematic dynamic of this moment does various things. To begin, Morris, albeit by accident, removes the indexical register of the interview; the audience is only presented with a tape recorder from various angles, but never do we see Morris or Adams in this all too important event. Second, Morris can now be heard asking his questions. Morris has brought himself physically into the film without the necessity of actually seeing him. Finally, this moment, which lacks a direct visual signifier, will come to resignify the entire film. Therefore, in a film as constructed as this one, where the visual detail has saturated and dictated our comprehension of the events, Morris eventually resorts to the act of removing the visual detail. 

Meditating on Truth in an interview, Morris has noted the faultiness of the image as way to approach Truth. 
"Someone comes up to you and they say “well I’m a postmodernist. I really don’t care about truth. Truth is subjective. Or there are all kinds of different versions of truth. Your truth; my truth; someone else’s truth.” and then you say to them, “Well, then it doesn’t matter to you who pulled the trigger. It doesn’t matter to you whether someone committed murder or not. Or someone in jail is innocent or not. It’s just a matter of personal opinion. Our intuitions, I believe our intuitions strongly are that it does matter. It matters a great deal what happened in the world. You know, our vision is incomplete in every respect. We try to find out about the world by collecting evidence, by thinking about things, by looking at things. Nothing that we ever create is complete. But you try to figure out what our relationship is to reality, to the real world, to what happened, to what transpired. Use every means at your disposal."
Thus, after the barrage of images, Morris seeks the employment of another one of the available means; speech becomes such a tool. At this point, Morris literally speaks his way into the film, by “stating” that this moment, this final testimony, stands in for a Truth greater than all that which we have been experiencing all along. As a result, “Truth... (becomes) not a quality or meaning that is immanent in reality; rather, it is an effect of human discourse” (Cowie 26). Morris can finally peel away all the ‘truth’ which turns into minutiae, simulacra, in the context of the only information needed in the decipherment of the case. In the process, this highly orchestrated film, I believe, becomes an anti-film. Thus, it’s the “Voice” which ultimately returns Randall Adams to liberty. It might have been an accident that brought about this moment, but the accident became a revelation for Morris. Although his work still exhibits the use of reenactments, low key lighting, driving music, and multiple film stock choices, films like Fog of War and Standard Operating Procedure have taken advantage of the incursion of the filmmaker’s voice into the final product, always integrating this same anti-film quality, this filmmaker’s signature, into his subsequent films. 

Bloom, Livia, Ed. Errol Morris: Interviews. UP of Mississippi: Jackson, 2009.
Cowie, Elizabeth. Recording Reality, Desiring The Real. U of Minnesota P: Minneapolis, 2011.
Meyer, Michael. “Recovering Reality: Errol Morris on Abu Ghraib.” Columbia Journalism Review. March 5, 2008. <http://www.cjr.org/video/recovering_reality.php>
Morris, Errol. The Thin Blue Line. 1988. MGM. DVD. 2005. 
Nichols, Bill. Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary. Indiana UP: Bloomington, 1991. 
Spence, Louise and Vinicius Navarro. Crafting Truth: Documentary Form and Meaning. Rutgers UP: New Brunswick, 2011. 
Winston, Brian. Lies, Damn Lies and Documentaries. BFI: London, 2000.