Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Machines of loving grace: the rise of the collageumentary

Absolutely brilliant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1bX3F7uTrg

This is a short film about a documentary film maker who made critically lauded films for the BBC. And about how, along the way, he proved that style always triumphs over substance.
Adam Curtis believed that 200,000 Guardian readers watching BBC Two could change the world. But this was a fantasy. In fact, he had created the televisual equivalent of a drunken late-night Wikipedia binge with pretension for narrative coherence. Combining archive documentary material with interviews, Curtis filled in the gaps by vomiting grainy library footage onto the screen, to a soundtrack of Brian Eno and Nine Inch Nails.

He had discovered that it did not matter what footage you used, so long as he changed the shots so bewilderingly fast that the audience didn't notice the chasm between argument and conclusion.
More than anything recently produced by the BBC, this makes me proud to be British. If you saw the original, please do watch the whole parody.

I saw the first episode of All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace quite by accident, and tweeted as follows:
Ayn Rand & Silicon Valley, am I really watching BBC Two? - "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace"
Truths in #AllWatchedOverByMachinesOfLovingGrace, but also dark hints of the standard BBC narrative, conflating corporatism with capitalism
It seemed like there was some potential, so I watched the second and third episodes, but found them as unsatisfying as the first. It was exactly as Ben Woodhams described: "the televisual equivalent of a drunken late-night Wikipedia binge with pretension for narrative coherence". At the end of it, I had no idea what Curtis really believed, or what he'd actually been trying to tell us.

Some people might have blamed themselves for this, and covered for it by declaring how brilliant the programme was. I just thought it was a load of pretentious rubbish; nicely executed, but not especially illuminating. People would have been able to to fit the jumble of facts to whatever preconceived ideas they brought to the programme, and I doubt it really changed anyone's mind.

It doesn't really deserve a serious response. Ben Woodhams got it exactly right.

(H/T James Delingpole)

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