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Sundance. "Smash His Camera" and "Teenage Paparazzo"

The Auteurs Daily

Smash His Camera

"In two days, two documentaries about paparazzi have screened at Sundance," writes Karina Longworth in Voice Film. "One, Smash His Camera, was directed by Leon Gast, who won an Oscar for When We Were Kings. The other, Teenage Paparazzo, was directed by Adrian Grenier, who has been nominated for two Teen Choice awards for his work as the star of Entourage.... Both films are flawed, a bit too in love with their subjects, intermittently insightful, consistently entertaining. Neither fully accomplishes it alone, but together the two films document the changing face of celebrity, an evolution in what the public wants from their stars, and why."

"[M]uch as Weegee's photographs turned the gritty streets and crime scenes of the Naked City into something resembling a Martian landscape, [Ron] Galella's shots enhance the otherworldly nature of fame, even as they pretend to demystify it," writes Bilge Ebiri, reviewing Smash for IFC. "Maybe that's the biggest difference between Galella's heyday and today's - those 'Celebs: They're Just Like Us!' photos of Jessica Simpson buying a Big Gulp have none of the surreal, untouchable allure of Jackie Onassis crossing the street."

Galella would "rather look directly into the eyes of the star he's ambushing; the shot, he says, is really about their relationship." Entertainment Weekly's Owen Glieberman: "That, suggests the movie, is the real mystique of the paparazzi: Some may dismiss them as sleazy borderline sociopaths, but the big picture is one of grand connection - between the celebrity and the photographer and the media and us, the audience that harbors an essential, almost childlike human curiosity to know what stars are truly like when they aren't posing.... Smash His Camera makes you see why Ron Galella was Andy Warhol's favorite photographer. Galella's photographs - millions of them, all archived, many now showcased in museums and galleries, including the Museum of Modern Art - are raw, beautiful, shocking, tender, fascinating, and real. They're proof that starting in the late 20th century, art and voyeurism could no longer be separated."

"It wasn't a surprise to find Galella in the audience after the screening," reports Julian Sancton for Vanity Fair; "after all, the film painted him as a shameless self-promoter. 'My picture taking is finished,' he told the crowd, belying the camera still dangling from his neck like a talisman. 'The caliber of stars today is changing,' he said. 'They're featherweights.'"

IndieWIRE interviews Leon Gast and AJ Schnack collects a few more links.

Update, 1/27: Roger Ebert: "He is a viper, a parasite, a stalker, a vermin. He is also, I have decided, a national treasure. Ron Galella, the best known of all paparazzi, lost a lawsuit to Jackie Kennedy Onassis and five teeth to Marlon Brando, but he also captured many of the iconic photographs of his era. At 77, he is still active, making the drive from his New Jersey home and his pet bunny rabbits through the Lincoln Tunnel to Manhattan, the prime grazing land of his prey."


Teenage Paparazzo

"Several years ago, as his fame was just taking off, [Grenier] noticed that among the paparazzi following him around was a surprisingly young, blonde and savvy photographer," writes Brandon Harris for Filmmaker. "How could a fourteen year old boy be a working member of the LA paparazzi? Grenier set out to discover just that and in the process of getting to know the world of young Austin Visschedyk, Grenier himself becomes a paparazzi, stalking fellow celebrities like Brooke Shields and Eva Longoria-Parker."

"Grenier uses Visschedyk as a springboard to explore the shadowy world of paparazzi and later to delve into the nature of celebrity, voyeurism and what psychologists call parasocial relationships, where one party knows infinitely more than the other." Nathan Rabin at the AV Club: "As long as it keeps the focus on Visschedyk, the film is on solid ground, but when Grenier turns the camera on himself the film grows solipsistic and frustrating."

Coverage of the coverage: Sundance 2010.



Karina Longworth notes that both films "use the same exact footage from La Dolce Vita to explain to origin of the profession."



All week long, the Independent is celebrating 100 years of the very concept of the movie star. So far, Geoffrey Macnab's traced the birth of the star system to Carl Laemmle's creation of "The Biograph Girl" (Florence Lawrence) and tracked it through the "golden years," the 30s and 40s.

Even less directly related, but still: Janet Maslin (New York Times) and Wendy Smith (Los Angeles Times) review Henry E Scott's Shocking True Story: The Rise and Fall of Confidential, "America's Most Scandalous Scandal Magazine."

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