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Thread: The modern documentary style

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    Default The modern documentary style

    Just watching an episode of the Beeb's 'Civilisations' - the content aside, it's the style I'm interested in. It's all ambient, soaring, cinematic music/muzak (I've heard an instrumental version of a Coldplay track in an arts program). It's slow motion shots, fancy filming, not really a documentation of reality as we see it. Collages of shots setting a mood. The presentation is cinematic too, in that it's bombastic, the words set off orchestral swells or glittering 4K shots.

    Comparing it to the original Civilisation in terms of style is striking. As with Life on Earth Vs Planet Earth 2, it is the images which are most important, or rather, the technology that's capturing the images. Fetishism of technology.

    I don't have anything interesting to say about it right now, but it seems like a fertile thing to interrogate. I just keep thinking 'why do they have slow motion shots of birds flying here?'
    Last edited by Corpsey; 25-03-2018 at 09:28 PM.

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    It's very slick. Expertly done. Not tasteless, exactly.

    But it seems so based on the sparkle of the image.

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    Yes it's all changed since people got big tellies and better soundsystems at home I think.

    In the 70s documentaries were usually a posh man talking at you.

    Having said that, it does depend on what's being documented. The BBC4 music docu for Dads is usually just talking heads and old footage...

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    i read 2 pieces recently that touched on the relationship between history and images.

    In LRB they were going on about re-coloured historical images, how the beginning of present-ness is stretched backward a bit when you can see the a colour pic of gettysburg address or whatever

    The other was a news article about a 16 year old woman killed by police in US, whose case has no traction because it was not videoed.

    The LRB piece drifted into less interesting stuff, but I found this thought-provoking:
    ‘What was it like growing up in black and white?’ was a question I asked my mother once. Until that moment her memories of childhood, so much more engrossing than any bedtime story, had unspooled in my head in perfect greyscale. (They do still, in childish defiance of the facts.) It wasn’t as if I’d seen many photographs of her as a girl – I still haven’t – but simply that the past, as I had perceived it, was defined by an absence of colour. No one who grew up in the age of black and white photography and film could have suffered under the same illusion. But nor, until relatively recently, would a child’s perception of the past have been necessarily, or primarily, defined by images: things, like cuttings of hair, hand-me-downs of varying kinds, or bits of landscape, performed similar functions, alongside oral tradition. The imagination was a freer, wilder thing. As our world has become increasingly mediated by visual culture, especially photography, so has our sense of history.
    ...
    We are so accustomed to the muffling effect of black and white – which now conveys, almost as if that were its original purpose, chronological distance, and which tells us, quietly but insistently, that what we’re looking at is over and done with – that its sudden removal thrusts us into a present, though not our own.

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    There still seem to be a lot of 50 minute posh man rants in BBC documentaries - there was a doc series on Art in Spain that I wanted to watch but just couldn't face because of the guy presenting it. But then yep there is the premium grade documentary - Adam Curtis, Planet Earth - that has to dazzle.

    The docs I tend to like the most these days are the 21st century feature length reimaginations of the form, where the plot is as cliffhanging as any thriller - Capturing the Friedmans, Man on Wire etc etc. Friedmans is the first one I remember watching where I was struck by the seeming newness of the format, but I'm sure there were examples that predate it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sufi View Post
    i read 2 pieces recently that touched on the relationship between history and images.

    In LRB they were going on about re-coloured historical images, how the beginning of present-ness is stretched backward a bit when you can see the a colour pic of gettysburg address or whatever

    The other was a news article about a 16 year old woman killed by police in US, whose case has no traction because it was not videoed.

    The LRB piece drifted into less interesting stuff, but I found this thought-provoking:
    I had my children convinced that the world was in black and white until 1970. Kept it up far longer than I thought possible with increasingly convoluted explanations.

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    Quote Originally Posted by droid View Post
    I had my children convinced that the world was in black and white until 1970. Kept it up far longer than I thought possible with increasingly convoluted explanations.
    What happened in 1970?

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    ...according to your alternative colourspace, @droid?

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    Quote Originally Posted by sufi View Post
    ...according to your alternative colourspace, @droid?
    We stole colour from the moon in 1969, which is why its now monotone... took a long time to filter through to Ireland though, which was mostly grey until the late 70's (this bit is true).

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    Quote Originally Posted by droid View Post
    We stole colour from the moon in 1969, which is why its now monotone...
    highly plausible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by droid View Post
    I had my children convinced that the world was in black and white until 1970. Kept it up far longer than I thought possible with increasingly convoluted explanations.
    Ha, I tried that as well with my daughter! We were watching Billy Liar, and I said that the reason films were black and white in the old days is that the world was black and white. She was about 7 so still in that "what the parents say is Truth" kind of mindset, so she almost believed me for a while.

    Of course if she had been a film scholar I would have had to explain why you had Technicolor movies like The Searchers or even earlier like Gone with the Wind, but black and whites still being made into the Sixties like all the kitchen sink social realist ones.

    Actually there is at least one movie that is half colour and half black and white, because the budget ran out half way through or something. I think ... if is one. Explaining that discrepancy would have been challenging but luckily at 7 she wasn't up on her Lindsay Anderson filmography.

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    Wizard of Oz would be the famous example, but it was actually filmed all in technicolor and the black and white scenes were filmed on a sepia painted set with sepia costumes.

    Technicolor is pretty amazing actually, the cameras were huge and had to be enclosed on set cos they were so noisy, and the processing of the film was extraordinarily complex. Suspiria is, I think my favourite technicolor print.

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    Berger's Ways of Seeing in response to the original Civilisation deals with a lot of persisting issues quite well I think. I find it very difficult to sit through a lot of telly now tbh be it political framing, formulaic or just plain rubbish. The Netflix assembly line isn't helping things on that front either but surely one of biggest modern crimes is how much Factual programming has merely become promotional vehicle for the presenter. Posh man talking at you was one thing but everything now is 'X celebrity in Mumbai' or 'X does the Amazon', etc. That and crowbarring the fucking monarchy and military into everything.


    Sort of OT but was reading something recently about Youtube recommendations and what is a now well worn story of internet radicalisation. The claim was no matter what you started looking at regarding the US election it would always lead on to more and more 'extreme' content. Trump speech has you viewing ethostate propaganda within a few vids and Bernie would lead to pretty dubious global finance stuff. All leads back to antisemitism, huh. I have experienced similar looking for history docs online. Very quickly and easily find yourself in dodgy territory in a way I don't think existed a few years ago. Film has always been ideologically loaded of course but there seems to be a different industry at work now.
    Last edited by Sectionfive; 04-04-2018 at 01:01 AM.

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