Saturday, June 19, 2004
Documentary Miscellany

On my way to the Co-op this morning, I tuned into NPR on my car radio and caught the last half of an interview with Barbara Kopple, the renowned documentary filmmaker known for films like Harlan County, U.S.A and Wild Man Blues.

Anyway, at one point the interviewer predictably asked what she thought of Michael Moore, and she replied that she loved him. She then went on to say something I really liked: "There's room in the world for all kinds of work."

That's exactly the sentiment I do my best to maintain; sometimes I manage it, sometimes not so much. But even so, Moore bears some criticism, (as in this excellent piece by Roger Ebert); he attracts an especially large amount of attention, so he bears an especially large amount of responsibility... not just to himself, but to the genre.

The Ebert piece above quotes Godard making a point that I especially appreciate: "The way to criticize a film is to make another film." This touches on something that every filmmaker has to grapple with sooner or later: how do you deal with the opinions of people who, more often than not, have almost zero insight into just how miraculous it is that you've made a film at all, much less one worth watching? Do they not owe you at least the courtesy of making a similar effort in response? This is applicable to any artform, obviously, but film most of all because even a modest production is a mammoth undertaking, combining the creative process with the organizational and tactical skills of a field general and the problem-solving abilities of NASA mission control. In truth, the only way to truly respond in a valid way is to make your own film containing your own viewpoint. I guess that makes this guy the only truly worthy critic of Moore's work, huh?

Ironically, Godard failed to take his own advice to heart at the last Cannes film festival, making some less-than-flattering statements about Moore's work without even having seen Fahrenheit 9/11 himself. I guess he was just riding on his reputation.
11:59 AM ::
Amy :: permalink