lunes, 24 de enero de 2011

Cinéma Vérité: Defining the Moment (1999)


















Runtime: 193 min
Language: English and French (French hard subbed in English)
Country: Canada
Color: Black & white, colour
IMDb Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0220364/

Director: Peter Wintonick
Cast:
Jean-Pierre Beauviala, Michel Brault, Gillian Caldwell, Robin Cowie, Robert Drew, Jennifer Fox, William Greaves, Gregg Hale, Wolf Koenig. Roman Kroitor, Barbara Kopple, Richard Leacock. Doug Leiterman, Terrence McCartney Filgate, Albert Maysles

Description:
"It's all art. There is no reality. It is all constructed" according to Peter Wintonick when interviewed at the 1999 Adelaide International Documentary Conference about his latest documentary, Cinema Vérité: Defining the Moment (1999). Throughout this interview, he traversed the debates and discussions central to the development of the documentary and the role of cinema vérité as a technique to closer approximate the recording of 'truth'. Cinema Vérité: Defining the Moment is a comment on such historical documentary debates over time, including the more recent revolutionary development of new technologies and the wider changes in film language. This new film by Peter Wintonick can be seen as an extension of his earlier films and multi-media work, focusing on the contribution of cinema vérité to contemporary documentary and film culture.

Cinema Vérité is a sumptuous feast of old black and white vérité footage from some of the masters working in observational filmmaking. For the practitioner, it presents a landscape of historical figures that have made their mark.

Wintonick includes the following cinema vérité practitioners charting their personal discoveries through the process of filmmaking. Jean Rouch recalls making the personal distinction as a child between real and not real. He was watching Robert Flaherty's Nanook of the North (1922) and asked his parents if it was a 'true story'. His mother replied that she thought it was real, but to ask his father. His father said it was real but that it was acted. Herein lie the complexities of documentary. Wintonick outlines these with discursive comments from a range of practitioners.

In the documentary, Koenig articulates that he is always "open to moments that reveal". He gives his pearls of wisdom, with the analogy of a stringed set. "The intellect is the enemy" and that "it is about theatre - it's all manufactured". He uses the camera as a catalyst, rather than seeing it as a neutral object. Robert Drew wanted to see life's essays on TV, using a dramatic logic as a new basis for journalism. "Using deductive logic we can see 'truth' through other peoples personal experience". He felt journalism should be more spontaneous and human, and early documentaries were boring because they were invariably a lecture. Reisz wanted audiences to identify with detail, as opposed to using argument, polemic or offering conclusions. Brault states his intent is "to get close to people through picture or sound. Picture and sound must dominate". Leacock, the great improviser of equipment, wants the viewer to feel like they were present at the time of the filming, to feel they were there. He asks the pertinent question: "If they had handicams at the time of Jesus' crucifixion, would that have helped very much? I don't know".

We also see the premature yearnings of Russian Dziga Vertov to create cinema of reality with sync sound but he is thwarted by the limitations of technology at the time. He was the early instigator of manifestos, wanting reportage based on real life. "Provda! It is the truth". Maysles and Wiseman present the American psychological, and psycho-social exploration with vérité. Wiseman describes vérité as a pompous French term that has no meaning. For him it is about organising a sense of the dramatic. It is conscious manipulation. Kopple has moved from being a purist using vérité only. She feels it is good for action but chooses to use interviews to probe her subject. She describes a shift from the aggressive "image stealing" she learned in film school, "where you hope the subjects don't know that you have taken them".

These are radical departures from the constructed documentary and 'the voice of God' or anonymous voiceover that drove the early documentary. Reality based TV, newsreels, and TV literacy have dictated some of the changes. The introduction of sync sound and smaller cameras have also liberated documentary. Wintonick says: "Today, we see the influence of vérité in everything from music videos to feature films to TV news. Yet these things are not vérité films. The key difference, I think, is that today's contemporary image industry is almost wholly devoid of thoughtful content; it is pure image without the sense of social self and social responsibility that vérité filmmakers brought to their work". The end of the film culminates with the modern use of vérité as a style or film language to indicate reality. The reality of shaky-cam or handycam without the polish of the Hollywood machine.

Adapted from Cinema Vérité: Defining the Moment by Katherine Speller, December 2000 (Senses of Cinema atricle)

















































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Individual Files
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