Cinema Direct vs. Cinema Verite - The Quest for Cinematic Truth

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 15, 2007 12:55pm | Post a Comment
Today marks the one billionth time the term "cinema verite" was applied incorrectly. This time it was in reference to a commercial for blue jeans or cell phones or something. I know what you're saying: "They're just words, man" or, "why do we have to categorize anything?"

Jay Ward's "Cap'n Crunch and Friends" $13.98 at Amoeba

Yeah, I see your point, Mr. Manson. Why don't I prepare for you a fro-yo topped with Cap'n Crunch, which is my term for rat poison? They're just words, after all. Oh, and the yogurt isn't really yogurt.

My point is, what is most often referred to as cinema verite is not only philosophically diametrically opposed to actual cinema verite but (more damningly), it conflates irreconcilable understandings of the nature of reality, God, the universe and everything else!

Cinema Direct -or- what pretty much everyone erroneously refers to as Cinema Verite

Cinema Direct is documentary genre that began in Quebec in 1958. The Quiet Revolution, a cultural assertion of the French-speaking majority under the rule of the Anglo-minority, encouraged the development of a distinct Quebecois identity.

The most unfortunate by-product of la Revolution Tranquille

As part of this cultural expression, filmmakers sought to re-instill truthfulness in the documentary genre, which, by the 1950s was usually studio-based propaganda rife with dramatizations and mickey mousing. In 1922's Nanook of the North, for example, Nanook (actually an Inuit named Allakariallak living in Inukjuak, Quebec) was built an oversized igloo to share with his wife (who wasn't really his wife) to allow a camera crew and sufficient lighting inside. He was filmed hunting with a harpoon. In the scene, Allakariallak looks in the direction of the camera laughing and smiling memorably. He only knew how to hunt with guns. You can almost hear Robert Flaherty taking him aside and asking, "Could you act... you know... more Eskimo?"

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