TELEVISION / Snap judgements: Thomas Sutcliffe observes the habits of the paparazzi on True Stories

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The Independent Culture
WHEN Felice Quinto, an Italian paparazzo, cornered Anita Ekberg in an assignation with a married man she let fly. With a bow and arrow to be precise - an Amazonian response which was caught by Quinto in a splendid picture; wild huntress eyes, those elegant arms just pulling the string back, the arrow rising to the target. Ekberg hit the bullseye, which in this case was Quinto's backside. 'Boom I went with anudder flash,' he recalled. 'Then she let it go and I had a PAIN in the ASS] Holy CHRIST, I says, sheese for real]'

By the end of Joseph Blasioli's 'Blast 'em', screened last night by True Stories (C 4), you were fervently hoping that one of the celebrities tailed by Victor Malafronte would turn out to be equally enraged and better armed. Given that it is usually difficult to feel sorry for film-stars (as Victor himself put it 'I have no sympathy for someone who makes 20 to 30 million dollars a year'), this was something of an achievement. But then Victor, one of New York's tougher celebrity photographers, is a man with the moral conscience of lichen and the manners of the last crow to reach the road-kill.

He is, like all the paparazzi, on first name terms with the stars, bellowing Christian names in the hope of getting an involuntary turn of the head. The strategy must have worked once, I suppose, back before they invented talkies. Now celebrities know that if they hear their name being called urgently it's time to turn up the collar and huddle behind the minders. If the shot fails, the sleazy familiarity curdles to contempt instantly. 'Tracy, Michael] Right here please . . . Tracy, Michael . . .' Malafronte pleaded unctuously as Michael J Fox ducked into his apartment. '. . . what a JERK]', he spat, at the star's retreating back.

Malafronte had something of an obsession with Fox, staking out his home in a determined attempt to get a picture of him with his baby. Blasioli built his film around this ludicrous quest, breaking off to trot behind the photographer as he elbowed his way to the front of the scintillating riot that forms around open limo doors. There were no extended moral debates ('You're confusing me,' whined Victor to one off-camera question about ethics) but there really need to be, for the director had hit on a man perfectly happy to provide his own condemnation.

'Did you see them run in like a bunch of wild animals?' he remarked indignantly after missing a target, apparently unaware that the description would sit more comfortably on the snappers. Outside Fox's apartment he sneered at the autograph hunters waiting on the pavement: 'You'd have to admit that there's something wrong with somebody who's got nothing better to do than wait around for a celebrity,' he protested, without a trace of irony. As he proudly talked of his 'exclusives' (what could be less exclusive than a photograph of a movie star?) and tracked his prey, you heard an uneasy echo of the soured devotions of fans like Mark Chapman and John Hinckley.

Blasioli's film was overlong (it could have lost 15 minutes to its advantage) but in its examination of the hysterical trade in fame and the fugitive life of the famous it caught its subject face on.

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