Friday, April 24, 2009

Viewing Journal: 4/23/2009

"Director-detective" Errol Morris' newest kinetic assault. This time with a focus on the arcane nature of images in our digital age. Through what his trademark craft --combinations of dazzling cinematic reenactments, "Interrotron" first-person confessionals, atypical theatrical scoring (Danny Elfman replacing Philip Glass here) and haunting interludes of archival footage--- Morris creates an expressionistic collage out of the media-circus that surrounded the Abu Ghraib scandal. The film provides nothing if not a buffet of food for thought through all its informative angles, but mostly through compelling and intimate interviews with Lynndie England, Megan Ambuhl and Sabrina Harman about how those infamous photographs came to be. Also how they affected their lives. Morris's dynamic observation of this case is an alarming dissection of how some unfortunate and misguided grunts (a few a little on the mean-spirited side, some emotionally weak and others just flat out dumb ass ignorant kids) can and will sadly become scapegoats for their higher-ups who encourage and give orders for despicable acts. Several elements made up the way those infamous stills were perceived by the media: their content obviously, but also the way they were arranged, and how some of the frames were even manipulated digitally. I think Morris inventively illustrates how a lot more than meets the eye went down that month in 2003. The most shocking and eye-opening part of this whole film for me is the sequence that highlights which of the photographed behavior was considered "legal" or "illegal" by the CIA. Really solidifies my understanding of how potentially subjective all images really are in this day and age. STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE does not ask you to forgive these individuals - but it does, along with Sabrina Harman's voice-over renditions of letters she wrote home, put a depressingly human face on the whole mess. Already one of the better documentaries of the new millennium that I've seen and I think Morris's personal best since THE FOG OF WAR (2003).

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