Cinéma vérité?

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Perhaps the most riveting TV I have seen recently – including Jack Ryan on Amazon Prime, Kaleidoscope on Netflix, 1923 on Paramount+ – was watching the Speaker Election, as it restarted at 10pm, after a day when the 20 stocks that I track on my app were all green, while sipping Ten to Life, a wonderful Alexander Valley Cabernet (my first Cab from Alexander Valley was Jordan, sometime in 1998) and reading 9000 Years of Wine: A World History:

Although Plato generally condemned drunkenness because it produced an anti-rational state, in his Laws he suggested that there may be benefits in older people drinking to the point of intoxication. Drunkenness, he argued, was a means by which the old could capture their youthful spontaneity…the return to a kind of childishness rendered the old more open to learning…otherwise resistant to changing their ways of thinking more susceptible to virtue.


Back to political drama. January 6th 2023 and 2021 may go down in American History as exceptional days, captured by the camera as things were unfolding.

Although his Breathless (1960) is considered among the greatest Cinéma vérité films, Jean-Luc Godard says:

Deprived of consciousness, despite its honesty, [it] loses the two fundamental qualities of a camera: intelligence and sensibility.

Quite maximally inverse I suppose to Cinéma du look that I wrote about nearly a year ago.

I disagree with Godard’s assessment in this particular situation because, as the Director of C-SPAN discussed on CNN earlier today, the professional camera technicians in the chamber are well-aware of the drama in progress, the back-stories of the dramatis personae involved, as they have been covering these types of politically sophisticated events for some time, and so are able to focus the three cameras, and do real-time switching, zooming in or out, panning left to right (no pun intended!) and back, repeatedly, split-screening as appropriate, to best capture, in real time, the situation that is happening, unplanned, unscripted and un-re-enacted, and bring it to the audience, making them (us!) feel they (we) are present, with a you-are-here immediacy and urgency,  watching unvarnished reality, and, if you muted the commentators (as I did for most of the time), unmediated by pretentious narrators and self-appointed experts.

Errol Morris (Fog of War, 2003) invective against Cinéma vérité was:

That somehow if you juggle a camera around your hands, sneak around in the corners of the rooms and hide behind pillars, the Cartesian riddle will be solved as a result. That somehow epistemology will no longer play a role in what you do. That this is truth cinema, truth incarnate as revealed by a camera.

The issue of how to represent reality will continue to be worth discussing in our society, not just on camera but in other art forms. But on January 6th 2023, I believe that the unsung heroes behind the cameras did their job. Professionally. Thoughtfully. Artistically. Merci.

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