Wednesday, July 27, 2011

MIFF session 5: Tabloid

Joyce Mckinney, a poster girl for southern U.S. clean livin' tells the story of her life's great love and how she snatched him from the clutches of the Mormons who then snatched him right back. Between claim and counter reclaim is a tale of forced sex (she upon him) and cultism that ignited the gutter press and resulted in a police investigation and trial, forests fell for the next days' fish and chip paper.

As one tabloid got the exclusive rights first they followed her version of events. Its rival in chief dug for dirt and found a continent's worth of it. Far from the wronged southern belle her version held as essence, she was a thoroughly experienced sex worker, offering myriad services for the gentleman half of the great unwashed including, crucially, a lot of role play.

Ok ... if that's true why did she drag a licenced pilot and bodyguard to accompany her to the UK (where the Mormons had sent him), financing the entire jaunt. Publicity? She didn't want for clients back home. Doesn't gel unless the part of her story about her life's great love is actually true. Alright, call it psychotic obssession, her motives here are not entirely impure. There's more to come which you will NOT expect but for that you'll have to see the movie.

Errol Morris pioneered a technique whereby his subjects are lined up to look him and his camera in the eye, allowing for a conversational warmth and relaxation to pervade their testimony. This works here as it always has; the connection between the speaker and the auditorium a solid current.

Next, Morris injects two other tropes, a series of tabloid fonted statements which flash over the image like Fleet St headlines, adding irony to, often contradicting and now and then very cheekily correcting what is being claimed behind them.

The second device is the use of campy old footage from various sources to the same effect as the headlines. This can fall like a lump of granite through a frog pond but here the choice of material is so sharp and precisely timed that it serves to support the form AND luxiuriate in the embellishment and fabrication that we are experiencing. The central turth alluded to above, thus is rendered curiously inviolate, however little we can eventually credit the speaker.

This was an all but full house which roared along to its mastery. That's another reason why I love MIFF: I can wash and bash around in the cinematic equivalent of a mosh pit in front of films that I might otherwise quietly enjoy at home accompanied by few or all on my lonesome.

You could easily point to the timeliness of this project, given the current story of the stories, but what it damns and celebrates are timeless things: sin and human curiosity.

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