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Archive for May, 2013

A taste of the distractingly meta qualities that shanghai Stories We Tell, an otherwise inventive experimental documentary.

A taste of the distractingly meta qualities that shanghai Stories We Tell, an otherwise inventive experimental documentary.

The following is an excerpt from my review of Stories We Tell, the latest feature from Sarah Polley. Since writing the piece, I’ve gone back to visit Take This Waltz, Polley’s romantic drama from 2011. I think I prefer the straightforward emotionalism of that film to the shoehorned meta ruminations of Stories We Tell. You can read my full review over at Next Projection.

About 30 minutes into Stories We Tell, the new experimental documentary from Sarah Polley, I began to suspect the film had played me, successfully, for a fool.

Something about the images on screen just seemed too…perfect. A talking head reminisces about Polley’s gregarious mother Diane; cut to Super-8 footage of Diane sashaying for the camera at a lively, Boogie Nights-like house party. Another describes Polley’s father Michael as a recluse; cut to a home movie of her father floating on his back, alone, in a backyard swimming pool.

Polley, I thought, had a real knack for finding hand-in-glove documentary images to accentuate the words of her subjects. But, much like her talking heads, Polley herself is an unreliable narrator. She’s crafted a documentary riddled with falsehoods, which come in the form of expertly faked Super-8 footage from the ’70s and ’80s. This seamless mix of authentic and staged imagery highlights the film’s chief concern – the mercurial nature of truth and storytelling. It also flaunts Polley’s talent for staging remarkable facsimiles of period-piece archival footage. It’s a shame, then, that Polley sullies much of this goodwill through a clumsy repetition of her themes, an all-out loss of verisimilitude, and an insufferable turn for the meta.

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I’ve had two more work-related pieces published in the last week. The first is a column on sequestration and its effects on supportive housing programs. The piece appears in PolicyMic. You can read it here.

The second story concerns the United to End Homelessness program, which I wrote about in April. The story is a straightforward call-to-action for those interested in shedding light on homelessness during New York’s 2013 mayoral race. You can read it over at My New York Legal Help.

Expect a return to more film-centric posts soon as I hope to review Stories We Tell and Before Midnight this month.

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