Tabloid

by deerinthexenonarclights

(God they are some great posters; I really couldn’t choose just one.)

Erroll Morris is a man known for making his bizarre documentaries, bizarre in their topics rather than their execution, and this is probably one of his weirdest yet; which really says something given that his premiere effort focused on the opening of a pet cemetery.

Tabloid is not so much a documentary about the trashier side of – though this theme is present throughout – instead it simply strives to tell all the sides to one of the biggest stories to hit the medium of media. To explain what exactly this story is would be a sin because so much of the films joy actually stems from its shock and its strangeness. I will say this though:  it covers cults, cloning, crazy women and sex in chains in a ludicrously logical manner.

The story itself is really the key of the films success and Eroll Morris is smart enough to see this; He doesn’t attempt anything flashy with his direction because this would only distract. If anything the film is made notable for its plainness: it is made up of ninety-five percent talking heads and five percent of flourished fade outs and though anywhere else this would become banal quite quickly it is clearly the best approach that he could have taken with this particular piece of material. I assure you, watching this film is anything but boring.

    The one creative technique that Morris does utilised throughout the picture is the use of anachronistic archival footage; when the lead character describes meeting her soul mate he doesn’t simply show something the easily equates to the event itself, nor does he attempt to re-construct it in anyway; instead he has chosen to illustrate these segments with clips from old Fourties melodramas (as opposed to new Fourties melodramas, I suppose). So when she says they met driving along in their matching Jaguars we are show Rock Hudson and his faux beau braving the roads of some inner studio sound stage.

There is a clever irony inherent in this technique that works to undercut the super-sentimentality of the story and this particular example of it bears a strong sense of relevance given the protagonists predilection for over-dramaticizing and romanticizing the situations that she is supposedly setting straight. She very much sees her life as a Douglas Sirk movie and herself as their glamorous star no matter what reality may say to the contrary.

    If the film is attempting to tell us anything through the tale it is this: There is no such thing as a ‘True Story’ and there never can be – hell the two terms involved already contradict each other – and so we should never simply believe what we read in the tabloids as truth, but nor should we discount them anymore than we do a primary source. Life is weird and people are weirder, there are complexities upon complexities involved in even the most basic of undertakings but it takes a story as drastic as this one to truly point this out to us.

This isn’t really a documentary with a message though, Morris doesn’t care to work that way, he prefers instead to create experiences. You’re not supposed to come out of one of his films thinking about how it has revolutionized your life or the perspective you take on it, you’re just supposed to be riveted to the ride as it progresses and with that in mind this is surely then one of the man’s best yet. It’s one hell of a ride and one that you wouldn’t think anyone could make up, but one lady did.

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