Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

I haven’t done anything even slightly resembling the legwork it would take to prove or disprove this hunch, but I suspect that there might be more footage of Ingmar Bergman working on the set of his movies than any other filmmaker of the pre-home video generations. He has been the subject of a remarkable number […]

Frederick Wiseman, who persists in making some of the most sophisticated and effective documentaries in the United States even as he enters his 90s,* is well known for his films all being about “institutions”: he goes so a specific kind of place (a hospital, a museum, a cabaret), plops his camera down, sits behind it, […]

Of all the subgenres that I would never have been able to predict in advance, I think I can safely say that “unusually well-shot documentaries about aging Europeans who use traditional methods to find luxury food items in the wild” is among the unlikeliest. Yet here we are with The Truffle Hunters, only a year […]

tThere was no need for a follow-up to Fårö Document, a decade later, just as there was no reason not to make a follow-up to Fårö Document. And so it is that Ingmar Bergman tentatively returned to his native Sweden, around three years after declaring that he would never under any imaginable circumstances do so, […]

Of all the colorful eccentrics that Werner Herzog has collected over his years of making documentaries about interesting people doing interesting things in interesting places, Clive Oppenheimer is among the least-colorful and least-eccentric. He’s a volcanologist at Cambridge, and it was in this capacity that he was doing fieldwork on Antarctic volcanoes when Herzog traveled […]

It’s hard to imagine a more profoundly unsentimental film director – or person – than Werner Herzog. Good ol’ Werner “The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don’t think they sing. They just screech in pain” Herzog. Or Werner “Life on our planet has been a constant series of […]

There’s an inherent interest in watching a well-known director’s most unexpected, out-of-character work; what will this artist do with his skills when forced as far as possible outside of his comfort zone? And in the case of Ingmar Bergman, I think it’s more or less objectively true that the farthest he ever went afield from […]

These days, when the 1967 Stimulantia comes up – something it is powerfully unlikely to ever do – it’s almost certainly in the context of being the one anthology film that Ingmar Bergman contributed a segment to, right in the heart of his international heyday in the 1960s (it nestles in his career during the […]

As a genre, the making-of documentary is down near the very bottom of where you’d expect to find genuine artistic inspiration. At their worst, these are absolutely nothing but promotional puff pieces, and even when they are impressively packed with interesting and rare information, presented in a clear and engaging way (my mind immediately goes […]

It’s all right there in the title, a simple little thing that sounds as sensible as a well-fitting pair of shoes: Varda by Agnès. As in “Varda”, the filmmaking career of one of the all-time greats, a master director if ever a director was a master, someone who has more than earned the right to […]

The word “documentary” covers a lot of ground – far too much, really – and as such, a filmmaker can do a whole lot of different things. But as someone whose heart belongs to editing, and the belief that at the end of the day, all footage is just footage, and can be shaped into […]

The opening of For All Mankind, the extraordinary 1989 found footage documentary assembled by director Al Reinert and editor Susan Korda, serves as something of a thesis statement for the rest of the film’s 80 minutes. Over black, we hear two things: President John F. Kennedy declaiming passages from his wonderful 12 September 1962 speech […]

Categories: documentaries, space