Documentarians On Repeat

Discuss films and filmmakers of the 20th century (and even a little of the 19th century). Threads may contain spoilers.
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zedz
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Documentarians On Repeat

#1 Post by zedz » Sun Mar 13, 2016 11:38 pm

Le Cochon really is a remarkable film, for something so simple and unflinching. At some point along the meticulously documented process, the pig becomes abstract, though it's hard to pinpoint the exact moment that it happens (and it likely varies from viewer to viewer). And then you have to probe the troubling implications of that process of abstraction (and its obvious analogies).

I also should put in a word for La Rosiere de Pessac. Remakes are common enough; remakes by the original director are rare and fascinating - but rarer still are remakes by the original director of documentaries. (The only other example I can think of is Nanook of the North, and that's only because the original footage was lost, and by all accounts the second version was quite different than the first. And I suppose its not really a remake if the original was never released.) On their own, each Rosiere de Pessac is a pleasant enough piece of anthropological observation, but in concert they make for a really unusual filmgoing experience, since the tone of the film subtly but resoundingly shifts the second time around.

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furbicide
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Re: Jean Eustache on DVD

#2 Post by furbicide » Mon Mar 14, 2016 7:06 am

Would you include Bergman's Farodokument '79 in that category? Or was that more like a sequel than a remake?

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knives
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Re: Jean Eustache on DVD

#3 Post by knives » Mon Mar 14, 2016 3:16 pm

That's definitely a sequel. Off hand the only comparable example I can think of is High School II and maybe Rescue Dawn.

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zedz
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Re: Jean Eustache on DVD

#4 Post by zedz » Mon Mar 14, 2016 4:38 pm

knives wrote:That's definitely a sequel. Off hand the only comparable example I can think of is High School II and maybe Rescue Dawn.
Good suggestions, but I think the Wiseman is more like a second film on the same subject, not a blow by blow remake, and only one of the Herzogs is a documentary (though that's still probably the closest example).

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otis
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Re: Jean Eustache on DVD

#5 Post by otis » Mon Mar 14, 2016 5:01 pm

Straub & Huillet’s Une Visite au Louvre?

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zedz
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Re: Jean Eustache on DVD

#6 Post by zedz » Mon Mar 14, 2016 6:08 pm

otis wrote:Straub & Huillet’s Une Visite au Louvre?
I think that's more in the line of alternate cuts of the same film, in which case there's lots and lots of competition. What Eustache did was go back to the same place and make essentially the same film (a documentation of a local ritual) ten years later.

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knives
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Re: Jean Eustache on DVD

#7 Post by knives » Mon Mar 14, 2016 8:07 pm

Resnais did two films on Van Gogh, the second an oscar baby, very early in his career. Unless it counts as an alternate cut I think that would be our best bet.

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zedz
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Re: Jean Eustache on DVD

#8 Post by zedz » Mon Mar 14, 2016 10:51 pm

knives wrote:Resnais did two films on Van Gogh, the second an oscar baby, very early in his career. Unless it counts as an alternate cut I think that would be our best bet.
I haven't seen those, but unless he made the same film both times, I'm dubious. There are lots of documentary filmmakers who have made multiple films about the same subject without them being remakes.

I keep thinking about The Beaver Trilogy, but that's really a Little Dieter situation, since the second and third parts are dramatizations.

If you stretch the definition of documentary a little you can find examples in the experimental field, as in the two versions of Yoko Ono's Bottoms / Film No. 4. That was a case where she felt the concept could be realized better, so she remade it at feature length.

I think the rarity of remade documentaries is that there are few enough real-life events that recur in exactly the same way (as the Rosiere ritual does), and most filmmakers, having documented them once, don't feel the need to do so again.

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Re: Jean Eustache on DVD

#9 Post by domino harvey » Mon Mar 14, 2016 11:01 pm

Sketch comedy has covered these grounds too, quite inexplicably so

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knives
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Re: Jean Eustache on DVD

#10 Post by knives » Mon Mar 14, 2016 11:20 pm

zedz wrote:
knives wrote:Resnais did two films on Van Gogh, the second an oscar baby, very early in his career. Unless it counts as an alternate cut I think that would be our best bet.
I haven't seen those, but unless he made the same film both times, I'm dubious. There are lots of documentary filmmakers who have made multiple films about the same subject without them being remakes.
They're definitely a remake situation with nearly the same narration being used in both. It's mostly a difference in shots.

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Re: Jean Eustache on DVD

#11 Post by mizoguchi5354 » Tue Mar 15, 2016 12:15 pm

domino harvey wrote:Sketch comedy has covered these grounds too, quite inexplicably so
One thing that's always bothered me is how there are no biographies of Bunuel that delve deeply into his days writing for Second City.

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Re: Documentarians On Repeat

#12 Post by ando » Thu Mar 17, 2016 5:39 pm

zedz wrote:... rarer still are remakes by the original director of documentaries.
Intriguing subject, but why would a filmmaker want to go back over the same material if not to record developments in the narrative? In the case of cinema verité you can't redo it - you can only tell another story. It doesn't work, in any case; the force of the narrative is weakened or some characteristic feature of the original is lost. Remember the debacle with Ken Burns and The War? Whoever appointed his work as the definite word on anything, much less a subject as vast as The Second World War? I readily admit that The World at War (1973), my favorite documentary on that subject, has an obvious ploy and is rife with ommisions but remains a compelling story, dwarfing nearly every similar treatment. Then again, eschewing format, there has been no similar treatment of that conflict (to my knowledge) from a British perspective of such scope and nationalistic vehemence. Any attempt to redo that project would necessarily include a contemporary perspective which would belie the force of the original telling. It's like your grandfather talking about his time in Italy to you at 8 vs. him telling it to you at 40. It might actually be better but it will surely not be what you remembered!

Christopher Campbell, in his very short piece, Is It Possible to Remake a Documentary?, says,

Actually, 'Nanook' could simply be redone shot for shot. The original isn't exactly a document of an Eskimo of the time so much as how the people used to be, prior to European influence. But then, the remake would be even less qualifiable as documentary than Robert Flaherty's 1922 version. It is an interesting film to bring up, though, because it was already remade in a sense. In two senses, as a matter of fact. The classic we know of now was in a way a redo of an earlier film Flaherty was working on but accidentally destroyed. After 'Nanook' became a huge international hit, Paramount Pictures pretty much asked him to remake the same film (literally they requested "another 'Nanook'"), only in Samoa. The result, 'Moana', doesn't look or feel the same, however. This is partly why it bombed.

Artistic and commercial reasons aside, zeds' inquiry begs the question of the political imperative(s) for doing another version of a documentary.

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Re: Documentarians On Repeat

#13 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Sat Feb 18, 2017 8:18 am

zedz wrote:
I also should put in a word for La Rosiere de Pessac. Remakes are common enough; remakes by the original director are rare and fascinating - but rarer still are remakes by the original director of documentaries. On their own, each Rosiere de Pessac is a pleasant enough piece of anthropological observation, but in concert they make for a really unusual filmgoing experience, since the tone of the film subtly but resoundingly shifts the second time around.
The first version is now available on Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnHhE8VNhHw" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Get it while it's hot.

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