Saturday, November 15, 2008

No Subtitles Necessary

Last night was the second night of the Denver International Film Festival. I saw two documentaries. DIFF is notable for the number of documentaries it shows as part of the festival and I always try to see as many as I can. Firstly Documentaries rarely get shown anywhere else, and certainly not in conventional, commercial movie houses. Unless it is Michael Moore, don't look for them at anyplace other than an art movie house and even then rarely. They do show up on niche cable TV channels and on Public Television stations, but still the vast number of documentaries made are almost impossible to see, thus my desire to see them at the film festival.

The two I saw dealt with 'entertainment figures'. Entertainment figures who were/are giants in their respective venues.

"Count Basie: Then as Now, Count's the King" and "No Subtitles Necessary, Laslo & Vilmos."

The Basie documentary left me wanting something more. I thought it could have done so much more with a subject such as the great Count Basie. The film consisted of the usual archival footage and photographs and then former band members sitting around a table at Elaine's in New York, reminiscing about their days with the band.

The stories were fun and it was enjoyable to hear them, but as I said, it left me wanting more. I really didn't come away with a sense of who Basie was; no real sense of the person. And for those too young to know about Basie or experience his music, the film really didn't establish his huge impact on music and popular culture; and why 'the Count's still the King.'

"No Subtitles", however is a different story. This look at two of greatest cinematographers of the last half of the twentieth century was wonderful. It not only described their impact on film-making and their influence on the visual - 'the picture' and its style and quality as the story-teller - but who these two men really were and their friendship that was extraordinary.

A superb documentary. Among other things, it made me want to re-see many of the films they each made. As clips from their respective films (i.e. Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Paper Moon, The Deer Hunter, MaCabe and Mrs. Miller) were shown as part of the documentary, I found myself thinking about each one, 'oh wow, I love that film! I'd like to see it again!"

And of "No Subtitles", I'd like to see it again.

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