Tagged : ‘movie’
I just watched Smash His Camera, a 2010 documentary about pioneering paparazzo Ron Galella. It’s a very compelling look at a quirky and interesting character, along with a huge helping of philosophical conundrums of unauthorized public photography.
The movie covers Galella through the late 60s through today, highlighted by his run-ins with Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Marlon Brando., as well as his life in the age of Studio 54. We get amusing soundbites both sympathetic to and deeply critical of Galella’s work and person. Smash His Camera even briefly touches on the judgment of candid photography as art, while mostly avoiding a lot of tired tropes of how photography captures reality. Through his publicized court battles, we get some legal insights as well. The director, Leon Gast, uses almost no gear talk at all in the film, though there’s a brief segment where Galella discusses his disdain for using the viewfinder. The documentary makes good use of prior video features on Galella from the 70s and 80s. And, man, did he rock a sweet leather camera jacket!
This movie delighted the photographer in me. There is a rapidly evolving relationship between today’s society and the people within it who carry cameras. This movie deftly illustrates many of the seeds of how we got here by crisply capturing a time just before the modern boom of ubiquitous image-capturing. Galella, himself, notes that in his time, even with the world’s biggest celebrities he would be the only one around with a camera. Unsurprisingly, I’m very much on the side of Ron Galella in just about all questions raised in the movie, but I believe Gast’s choices did enough to show the seedier, unarguably creepy side of the man. Gast did well not to portray Galella’s celebrity subjects too unflatteringly either, though it is very notable that none of Galella’s targets were interviewed in the film — either a conscious choice or an artifact of a very low filmmaking budget I’m not certain.
You can find more comprehensive reviews of the film over at Rotten Tomatoes or IMDB. One last thing I will say is that I did get deeply affected, even shaken, by a scene at the end of the movie where Galella’s photos are being displayed in a clothing store and a young woman comments on them. Then, a well-done montage of Galella’s work closes the film, and it’s there that the true value of Ron Galella’s work shines through and justifies the whole endeavor. Love, love, loved it! And, if you’ve seen it, I’m dying to discuss it.