CINEMA / John Lyttle on Cinema

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Indy Lifestyle Online
If dragging friends along to silent movies is an impossible task, try getting them to roll up at the ticket-counter to see a documentary. They know where documentaries should be watched, if watched at all: on the box, thank you very much, and only if all the other channels are running The Potter's Wheel. And besides, we British are so good at television documentary anyhow, so spoiled for choice, that it's hardly likely that any old cinema documentary is going to either impress us.

Except The Thin Blue Line. And Roger and Me, of course. Maybe The Sorrow and the Pity. Perhaps Tales from the Quilt. Definitely Truth or Dare: In Bed with Madonna. Or Harlan County, USA. Or Say Amen, Somebody. Or A Brief History of Time. Or Cousin Bobby. Or anything by Humphrey Jennings. Or. . .

You see my point. Actually, cinema documentary is getting better as television documentary becomes worse; the rush for ratings has seen tabloid stories and tabloid techniques in ascendant (date rape, serial murder are current favourites).

At the same time, the big screen (well, bigger) is offering us such gems as Francois Girard's Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (above) and Patrick Keiller's London. The tag-line for London is 'a city re-imagined' yet it would be truer to say that Keiller and Girard are re-imagining a genre, the former bringing the capital to life from a dazzling array of angles, the latter employing actors, music and a multitude of viewpoints to transcend such categories as biography, film and even documentary itself. Maybe that's it: maybe I should tell my friends documentaries aren't really documentaries anymore. That could do the trick.

(Photograph omitted)

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