The last 10 years have seen documentary fimmaking enter into its 3rd
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The last 10 years have seen documentary fimmaking enter into its "3rd moment," a phase regarding trends in the position/role of both the filmmaker and camera, as well as strategies for the portrayal, or construction, of truth. According to Paul Arthur, post modern documentary films, along with most other modern cultural phenomena, involve an "unprecedented degree of hybridization." (Arthur 127) Influenced by earlier documentary styles, by Hollywood, by the American avant - garde, the 3rd moment involves a wide range of materials and techniques including voice - over narration, previously recorded film footage, staged reenactments and unstaged interviews. In way the documentary is forged like a collage. Yet the truly defining quality of the 3rd moment documentary is, in the mind of Arthurs, an "explicit centering of the filmmaking process and a heavily ironized inscription of the filmmaker as (unstable) subject, an anti - hero of our times." (Arthurs 127) These films have grown extremely self - conscious in their production as well as their subjectivity. In this way, "filmmakers assume an active presence as diegetic characters and/or voice - over narrators." (Arthurs 128) Michael Moore's Roger and Me fits tightly into the definition of the 3rd moment in documentary film.
Like 3rd cinema, the 3rd moment (in a sense the 3rd cinema of the 1st world) maintains the goal of recognizing and portraying truth. Its methods are quite distinct. Post - modern documentary tends to avoid "the social ideals of beaurocratic control in New Deal films, or spontaneous individual performance in direct cinema" as methods of depicting truth. (Arthurs 127) The truth - generating trend marking most post - modern documentaries is rather the unsuccessful depiction of events, of people, of situations. Stemming from a general mistrust of "artistic mastery," these films become windows to reality by failing to reach their (their directors') representational goals. (Arthurs 128) In other words, these films reach authenticity by exposing the inadequacies of any representational system, by reflecting the confusion inherent in human existence. Thus the production is exposed, the camera acknowledged, the director diegetically present, even focussed upon. Diegetically, these films are often based upon what does not happen as opposed to what does. Diegetic character goals are left unachieved as the groundwork for some moral theme. Thus Arthurs notes: "it is tempting to posit a documentary 'aesthetics of failure' that grafts a protean cultural agenda onto traditional problems of authority." (Arthurs 128) In the end, the director (diegetically present) gains authority through failure amidst the whirling confusion that is reality.
The aesthetics of failure, and the qualities of the 3rd moment in general, adhere stubbornly to Moore's Roger and Me. Materials range widely, including found footage such as a "Nightline" snippet and reenactments like the San Francisco coffee listing. Moore overlaps footage of abandoned Flint communities with pop songs like the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice," paving that chaotic, ironic path to authenticity so common in 3rd moment documentation. The diegetic chain of events revolves around, or approaches, something that never happens -- the awaited meeting/confrontation with General Motors Chairman Roger Smith. Moore is thwarted repeatedly in his effort to secure an interview. He is escorted twice from GM headquarters. His microphone is turned off at the GM stockholders' meeting just as Moore's goal seems attainable. Yet "it is precisely Moore's confection of an ineffectual, uncertain journalistic self that lends an Everyman quality to his social analysis." (Arthurs 128) Moore utilizes this self - deprecation within a constantly chaotic, often ridiculous environment, to enhance the film's realism.
In one scene, Moore meets a Flint woman who is breeding rabbits "for pets or meat." By appearing within the frame, Moore permits the spectator to view his facial expressions throughout the encounter. The rather ridiculous woman's talk elicits a discomfort in Moore, reflected in his shifting gaze. Framed within a medium shot, Moore (screen right) listens while the woman (screen left) speaks of "rabbit balls." At this point Moore actually looks directly, though quickly, at the camera. He has thus conveyed authority through discomfort (hence the aesthetics of failure). Looking into the camera, he has also exposed production. More generally, Moore's authority is also maintained through the combination of his voice - over narration and diegetic presence within the film. His self
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