For Reel

Real Life (1979)
September 12, 2012, 4:02 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Albert Brooks

Albert Brooks’ disarmingly prescient first feature is a biting response to PBS’ groundbreaking reality series An American Family, a program often credited as being the first of its genre, and one tinged with controversy due to its dalliances with the topics of divorce and homosexuality. With confrontational sarcasm, Brooks argues that the act of documenting reality is a myth – inevitably, even the most careful of filmmakers are intruding, and the subject’s knowledge of the camera leads to behavior that perhaps best reflects the ways that man acts under surveillance. Beyond the blanket satire, Real Life is a prophetic look at filmmaking in the digital age, with the feature’s longest running gag involving the ridiculous helmeted digital cameras that the crew members wear. Filmmaking is not only more mobile, but it is also unrestricted by personnel (or lack thereof) – early on, Brooks dismisses his gaffers and assistant directors, favoring a small crew for the intimacy he needs. Fascinating as the feature is, it stops just shy of masterpiece when the admirable concept wears thin. Regardless, the picture marked the emergence of a major figure in contemporary cinema – a much grittier, manic Woody Allen, never afraid to make the audience wholly unsympathetic towards his self-aggrandizing alter-ego.

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