Adam Curtis

rob_giri

Well-known member
Hope all you in the UK watched the first parts of Curtis' new doco 'All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace' last night (whilst I had to labour for about 3 hours to get proxy server shite working so I could watch it on BBC iPlayer).

I assume there are Adam Curtis fans here?

Viewing all of his documentaries, most of which can be found here http://thoughtmaybe.com/browse/video/adam-curtis and reading virtually the entire contents of his blog at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/ has changed my view of power and human relations immeasurably. He is certainly has one of the finest political minds of our times, and added to that has a most unique and beautiful aesthetic, and a completely original technique.

So, for those who did watch it: Discuss.
 
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craner

Beast of Burden
Well, he's an arresting editor and (this goes hand-in-hand) a master propagandist, but "finest political mind of our times" is a bit much.

Is this new documentary the one in which Ayn Rand is the new Great Satan in place of Leo Strauss? (Leo Strauss is just so Noughties, darling.)
 

craner

Beast of Burden
We actually had a really funny brawl about Adam Curtis back in the day -- not one of the ones you linked to, sadly.
 

rob_giri

Well-known member
I agree 'finest political mind' was a bit of hyperbole. I just think his combination of research, distilled theory and then his ability to present it all as a coherent narrative is completely unparalleled. Totally, totally ballsy. Or maybe I'm just naive.
 

Phaedo

Well-known member
Really enjoyed that show last night and really enjoyed stuff I have seen by him before. Of course its a very narrow minded view point but I still learn a lot even if you have to obviously have to remember its a very narrow view.
 

craner

Beast of Burden
From what I recall, his caricature of Leo Strauss was big Popcorn balls. We had a big dumb row about it here and then we all went off and did a bit of reading and came back and had a slightly more articulate row about exactly the same thing -- so if anything Mr. Curtis spurred a little more effort on our part.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Started watching it late last night but was too knackered - I'll watch the rest today. I recently watched all of Century of the Self; compelling and thought-provoking, although conspiratorial as hell. Such a great visual style. I also like the way you never see his face, even when he's interviewing people. He's definitely my favourite documentaryist (is that a word?) along with Jonathon Meades (and Chris Morris, if he counts :)).
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Love his stuff but I'd agree that he's more of a propagandist than anything else. By the end you're normally so blinded by amazing combinations of imagery and music that you don't notice the occasional cracks in the narrative he's advanced. Gonna hopefully watch the new one on Iplayer today and I'm really looking forward to it regardless of all that.
 

don_quixote

Trent End
even if it's a whole bunch of bollocks it's really really really engaging. it's the type of thing that makes you feel intelligent when you watch it. like reading a david foster wallace book. you know it's classy.
 

you

Well-known member
Adam Curtis is one of my favourite film makers, his use of old archive footage is wonderful - but I treat all his works as theory-fiction or mythopoeisthesizing conspiracy narrative or summat - to me they are a million miles away from documentation - which should be impartial and merely present all facts devoid.... - Curtis sets up a finely honed political/philosophical context through presenting a myriad of carefully chosen stories told through loaded imagery. The effect is amazing, I adore his work.

All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace - the crunchiest gear change for me ( aside from the timeline disruption ) was the leap my made from Alan Greenspans peripheral role in Ayn Rands vicious objectivism, the ping pong game + silicon valley context of Rands ideas and then Greenspans future career within the economic world..... the direct connection between objectivism and the markets felt ill-conjured to me, sure Rand inspired loads in Silicon Valley and readings of cyberspace cultures, and computers were bound to be used by bankers ( who wouldn't use the latest tech? ) - but the direct connection betwixt Randian objectivism and the bankers belief of the markets regulating themselves..... agh, not quite - this could've just been economic theory developing around computers right??? Maybe there are some good texts out there that'd put me wrong?
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Just watching the new one now - the collective 'Pong' game is wonderful.

Edit: so many great little moments in the footage, like the slow-mo shot of Monica L making big lovey eyes at Clinton...

Agreed with those saying this is nothing like objective (or Objectivist!) documentation, rather superbly persuasive propaganda.
 
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crackerjack

Well-known member
Adam Curtis is one of my favourite film makers, his use of old archive footage is wonderful - but I treat all his works as theory-fiction or mythopoeisthesizing conspiracy narrative or summat - to me they are a million miles away from documentation - which should be impartial and merely present all facts devoid.... - Curtis sets up a finely honed political/philosophical context through presenting a myriad of carefully chosen stories told through loaded imagery. The effect is amazing, I adore his work.
This is spot on – even that word I've never heard of and have no idea what it means :confused: – it's all beautifully done but it's more like background music than serious analysis.

I haven't watched last night's yet - Twistter consensus, even from fans, seemed to be that it was a little too conspiratorial...
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
I've never heard that word before either - I'm guessing thats because You just made it up by putting together myth, poetic and synthesising. Good coinage.
For me the main revelation in the documentary was Greenspan's closeness to Rand - perhaps I'm ignorant but I never knew about that. The main plot (conspiracy) hole for me was when it said that the Treasury Secretary was making US foreign policy and that he wanted Indonesia to take their medicine, and sure enough they gave in and took it. What pressure exactly did the US Treasury bring to bear on Indonesia to force them to accept the IMF's terms and why wasn't it mentioned in the film? That bit seemed to be missing.
 

pattycakes

Well-known member
he's really really great. maybe not the greatest (not my subject but could chomsky be the man for that title?) but he definitely makes it easy for anyone who's even remotely interested in his subjects to get a decent understanding of what goes on behind the scenes. as for it being conspirational, does he not back up pretty much all of what he says with facts n stuff?

looking forward to watching this new one in next few days
 

grizzleb

Well-known member
When I first seen 'The Century of the Self' it was like a new world opening up before me, the appearance of intellectual possibilities hitherto hidden and unreal. That and a few other things was pretty much my introduction into the real world (i.e the world of ideas). He's a bit of a hero of mine. Up until I seen that I wasn't aware you could actually make something like that, that you could make those connections and do it all in such a rich and stylised way. Elegaic ideological tone poems (or something).

Between him and Meades, there's still an ounce of originality in British TV production, maybe documentaries are the format in which it can shine, because of the low budgets etc. Hope the viewer ratings are high.
 

gumdrops

Well-known member
didnt see this thread. but yeah as i posted in the tv thread, i thought All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace on bbc2 was fucking superb, just as a programme with great graphics and library footage if nothing else. not sure about the angles he takes, or his theory exactly, but he makes great programmes. i miss that old sort of video cut and paste kind of aesthetic.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
"Twistter consensus, even from fans, seemed to be that it was a little too conspiratorial..."
I know and your friends are into your politics but you could give it a rest when you're playing Twister couldn't you? What if there was an argument and you were stuck in a position where you were unable to defend yourself?
Anyway, problem for me (after a bit of reflection) was more the opposite to be honest. I was hoping to see and hear loads of stuff that I didn't know but this time it kind of boiled down to

1. The people who control the US (and world) financial system usually come from big banks and have the interests of their companies, their friends and themselves at heart rather than those of the average worker in China or even in the US. All true and all bad but we know this already don't we? Plus, to be honest, where else are you gonna find people who have years of experience in that field? The universities maybe but if you've seen, say, Inside Job (which is well worth checking by the way) you'll know that they are compromised as well.

2. People used computers to do more complex and thus riskier hedging. Again, true enough but you'd be pretty fucking surprised if they didn't seeing as computers were being made better all the time and they are pretty much perfect for number crunching.

3. Alan Greenspan was, at one time, very close to Ayn Rand. OK, this I didn't know but how much effect it had on his decisions at the Fed was not really made clear.

I don't really think that he was implying that each step along the way to the fianancial crash was premeditated which would be necessary for a conspiracy, just that given the kind of people involved at each stage and what their ideology was you could understand why, at times, they made the wrong decisions. So, not really much of a conspiracy there but nothing that new or earth shattering to me.
 
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