Culture Rover

#114 - Documenting Documenting

For an extended opening to Michael Almereyda's documentary William Eggleston in the Real World, the director simply follows Eggleston around as he photographs Gus Van Sant's home town in Kentucky. This could get boring, but there is something in Eggleston's intense wanderings around the town that keeps your focus. We are watching a documentary about the process of documenting.

As Almereyda himself asks in a voiceover after this long opening sequence, could his film dare to follow the form of Eggleston's photographs, which quietly, almost mutely, capture the quotidian in shots that pull the unreal out of seemingly regular reality.

Almereyda ultimately abandons this experiment for a more conventional biopic approach, but the odd feeling of watching someone watching never quite vanishes from the film.

At the end of the film, Almereyda tries to get Eggleston to analyze his process of art-making, but Eggleston refuses -- or maybe he simply cannot do this. He is his camera.

It is as if the actual and the representational are one and the same. The documentary and the documented are not different. The real, observed from a cool distance, becomes the world, caught in the act.

14 October 2006

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