Sunday, July 31, 2011

Levels of Lying

Real Life (1979) / Albert Brooks

Instead of letting the interplay between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ (or Hollywood, as Brooks emphasises) in his film assume Kiarostamiesque-proportions¸ he chooses to engage plot-based mechanics, thereby resulting in a film that is almost always on the verge of profundity, but ends up being only a ‘entertainer’. There are curious qualities of self-referentialism in the film, with the format of the film consistently folding upon itself. It is a film about a narcissistic and selfish manipulator who feigns verisimilitude but instead, begins to intrude or influence the subject of his film so as be able to capture ‘tension’. There might only be two ways to direct the film ofcourse:  you could claim the stature of a faux-documentary and aver that the film is ‘really’ a record of a wholly authentic sociological experiment, or you could make a fiction film (one part comio-thriller, one part chamber drama, one part satire, one part dystopia) about a director who claims to shoot the real life of a family over the period of an year. Brooks starts out choosing the former approach, but ends up with the latter – because perhaps, much like the director he plays in the film, he loses trust in his own method easily. All said, however, Real Life is one of the greatest films about film direction and one of the better films about megalomaniacs (at par with Aguirre : The Wrath of God, one up on The Great Dictator and one down on Three Colours : Red) who are wholly incapable of fulfilling their ambition of megalomania. The assignment of a divine role to the filmmaker is, infact, a theme constant in the film. Brooks tells the head-of-family that is the subject of his record : ‘To err is human, to film, divine’.

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