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The entire sequence takes 26 seconds. There’s too much to take in. Or, you don’t know what you’ve taken in, and how deep the impression has been.
June 20, 2007 3:18 PM   Subscribe

The Flow, by Paul Myerscough
That image gives way, quickly and successively, to a series of others: a young black woman smoking, smiling at the camera through a reinforced glass window; three teenage girls in a car, laughing, filmed through the windscreen; a whip-pan to the American flag, pierced by sunlight, drifting in the breeze; a DIY programme on a pixellated TV screen; a ride-along shot of a family in an oversized golf buggy; two different angles of a man alone in a lecture theatre; two more of traffic at night; a woman, suspicious of the camera, wearing a polka-dot dress and partly obscured by glassy reflections; a blurry shot of a long windowless corridor; a man wearing shades in a crowded street; a woman pursued down the cosmetics aisle of a supermarket; and, as Curtis comes to the end of his three short sentences, a woman seen jogging in the wing-mirror of a moving car. The entire sequence takes 26 seconds. There’s too much to take in. Or, you don’t know what you’ve taken in, and how deep the impression has been.
posted by acro (18 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hm. I don't see how Curtis' dazzling use of music and montage in a documentary to illustrate a point is any more or less insidious than writing vividly in an essay.

Curtis is not claiming, as far as I know, that his documentaries are substitutes for firsthand research or a textbook - he's claiming they are documentaries, and he makes them to actually get his ideas out there. Personally, I find them to be fascinating, informative, and exhilarating pieces, and they've led me to read further on the topics he introduces. A fear that Curtis is somehow unfairly tricking his audience is mostly just condescending to his potential audience, and invoking the brainwashing sequence from Parallax View as a comparison seems about as valid as picking up any didactic book and saying "look, this is exactly like The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion."

It's an interesting read, but I don't see much substance here.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:54 PM on June 20, 2007


The Parallax View, rather. Fine film either way.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:55 PM on June 20, 2007


Forget Moore, watch Curtis.
posted by Substrata at 4:07 PM on June 20, 2007


The idea of democracy was taken over by a simplified economic model of human beings. In the process, freedom was redefined to mean nothing more than the ability of human beings to get whatever they wanted.’

It's a premise well worth considering.

I think, Stitcherbeast, the idea is that the barrage of images is too intense to be taken in, considered, or mediated by the viewer. Reading is exactly the opposite process. It's the old Marshall Mcluhan hot and cold media thing.
posted by jokeefe at 4:20 PM on June 20, 2007


However, the article doesn't mention this---Kuleshov experiment , [2]
posted by acro at 4:24 PM on June 20, 2007


(That is)... the Kuleshov effect sounds like what Myerscough is saying saying is attributed to Curtis' technique, but the article doesn't mention it...
posted by acro at 4:26 PM on June 20, 2007


I think, Stitcherbeast, the idea is that the barrage of images is too intense to be taken in, considered, or mediated by the viewer. Reading is exactly the opposite process. It's the old Marshall Mcluhan hot and cold media thing.

Yyyyyyyyeah, I can see that, but do we really KNOW that Curtis' command of montage is too intense to be taken in, or is Myerscough merely supposing that the audience is a bunch of rubes? Have the streets run wild with brainwashed souls taken in by his critique of power? Or do people simply appreciate a well-made good documentary and perhaps decide to further investigate its assertions?

Should Curtis reign in his technique for the sake of - what, decorum? Playing fair? To suggest that he restrain himself reminds me of slapping a burqa on a woman so that she doesn't tempt the men around her. If there are actually misleading passages, I'd be interested in hearing about them, but as it stands, it seems that Myerscough is overly concerned with Curtis' command of the techniques of good propaganda.

And I don't really treasure Myerscough's thoughts on the level of him "just asking questions," because he doesn't back himself up, and there isn't much evidence that Curtis has somehow overstepped his bounds or created an army of simpletons for his cause. I just think it's a pretty facile bit of idle snark to throw out there.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:51 PM on June 20, 2007


So, what's he suggesting? Eliminating film editing? I have a certain, "well, duh" reaction to the whole thing.

Of course cinema is manipulative. So is writing.
posted by MythMaker at 5:33 PM on June 20, 2007


All those series are available on Google video, btw.

Having watched all of them, I have to agree that they're grossly manipulative and dishonest, but at the same time, deeply fascinating on multiple levels and wonderful food for thought.

When I've done my own research to verify things that he's said, he's often grossly exaggerated the influence of various individuals and organizations he's talked about in the service of advancing his conspiratorial point of view, while at the same time capturing the over all zeitgeist of the eras he talks about.
posted by empath at 5:48 PM on June 20, 2007


they're grossly manipulative and dishonest, but at the same time, deeply fascinating on multiple levels and wonderful food for thought

Yes and yes.

While Myerscough spends a great deal of time dissecting Curtis's film techniques, he buries their reason in an aside near the end of the essay.

..Curtis likes to say that he’s ‘shown’ something to be the case, when often he’s just told us it is...


Time and time again, Curtis delves into one corner of one piece of data, and then baldly claims that this proves his larger point. Every time Curtis claims proof, he's backing it up with the flimsiest support possible. Seen from a certain light, The Trap is one long three-part foray into the anecdotal fallacy.

But, of course, it's easy to swallow. And that's the point of Curtis's techniques.
posted by suckerpunch at 8:08 PM on June 20, 2007


Curtis in a nutshell:

[They] said they would bring us [this]; but instead [they] did exactly the opposite.
posted by iamck at 9:06 PM on June 20, 2007


The 'they' part is really the problem.
posted by empath at 9:48 PM on June 20, 2007


We interviewed Adam Curtis that you might find interesting
posted by quarsan at 10:16 PM on June 20, 2007


Errol Morris interviews Adam Curtis.
posted by acro at 10:26 PM on June 20, 2007


"The Trap" was certainly the worst of Curtis' documentaries. There were a lot of very basic errors in his ideas about game theory and psychology. It was disappointing, and made me a lot more suspicious of his previous films.
posted by stammer at 12:07 AM on June 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Also, isn't the LRB brilliant?
posted by stammer at 12:08 AM on June 21, 2007


For Christ's sake, where are the Youtube links?
posted by rleamon at 8:26 PM on June 21, 2007


rleamon-- check the 'adamcurtis' tag
posted by acro at 6:06 PM on June 23, 2007


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