|Joyce McKinney, Tabloid, Sundance Selects, 2011.|
Witnessing the stabilization of the Documentary film in American art, one finds one of the most crucial forms of storytelling, one grounded in a supposedly objective truth always slanted subjectively, in a slow decline like all films, coagulating into a serious stasis. Talking heads beat the point into our heads in unison with selective footage and text. Now, then, what exactly is truth and reality? Is that not the main thing, the central question of all art? How does this represent and reflect who we are as a society and a species?
The best artists in any format take command in shaping their vision of the world to show us ourselves, or even more to allow us to transcend notions of thought and reality. Frederick Wiseman is the master of the documentary form, his unflinching gaze the one true objective eye, albeit portraying a certain section in society of his choosing. Meanwhile, Errol Morris has shaped the doc as imaginatively as any narrative filmmaker. He skews reality and holds up his Interroscope as a cracked mirror to himself, and through our spectatorship, to us.
Morris feels an undeniable care and affection for his "characters" and his "subjects". What contemporary documentary has the impact of style and substance of The Thin Blue Line or The Fog of War? The man is constantly setting higher standards his contemporaries are unable to reach; his declaration of the documentarian as a creative force is unrivaled. Recently, Herzog has risen to his omnipotence, crafting mysterious worlds out of reality we can see ourselves in.
Tabloid, the master's newest work, comes as a revelation, even for him. The twists and turns of a bizarre "love" story told from multiple points of view, incorporating stock footage, gossip rag clippings and a jubilant music score by John Kusiak mines Morris' instantly recognizable style, while reaching new heights of wonder and compassion at the fractured pasts and perspectives of his mind blowing main "character", Joyce McKinney, who unfolds in front of Morris' Interroscope with more depth and bizarre splendor than almost any Hollywood character.
This 70s Miss Wyoming's sex scandal involving kidnapping, Mormonism, British gossip rag celebrity, mime impersonation and dog cloning has to be the greatest film story of the year. Morris pieces it all together with a smirk on his face at the demented factions of fortune. It is easy to see how his detractors can take his portrayals as mocking, and yet, isn't that the greatness of Morris, or any master's style; an ambivalence which leaves us shaken?
Tabloid shook me up, left me in awe, at the shakes of life which make many slaves to their dreams and drives. Morris' heartbreaking portrait of the unshakable McKinney is one of his very best films.