XL Popcorn – Les Maîtres Fous / The Thin Blue Line

We appear to be in the home stretch here. The pain is not as it once was, but it still means I can not type for longer than a few minutes without my wrist hurting or my fingers from going numb. So the dictated reviews and a ridiculous posting schedule continues on.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”Title: Les Maîtres Fous
Director: Jean Rouch
Year: 1955
Country: France

If there was a film that should never be shown to racists I think it is this short. I’ve actually been left a bit speechless by what I’ve seen and am reminded (somehow) of the ending 15 minutes of the 2003 film Dogville. I guess that’s because of the idea of barbarity which depicted onscreen; albeit different forms of barbarity in both films.

The premise of the film is to follow the rituals that have developed in countries such as Nigeria following colonialism. It presents itself as a documentary, but I can’t help but wonder if the presence of a camera has affected the behaviour of those onscreen. I would hope that this is simply a complete fiction or at least an exaggeration of what goes on.

I live in a highly sanitised world in comparison to the majority of the world’s population. I very much aware of that and am thankful for the privilege. However, I would hope that such acts as the ritualistic killing of a dog and the following ripping apart of its corpse are things that don’t go on. But who am I kidding, eh?

The whole thing is only about a half hour long and it’s pretty much invented its own genre so I would reluctantly recommend Les Maîtres Fous for anyone interested in the history of cinema. Since I’ve been off I have seen some disturbing acts for the sake of the 1001 list and some of the scenes in this, due to this being presented as a documentary, rank rather highly. And I’ve seen Salo.

Title: The Thin Blue Line
Director: Errol Morris
Year: 1988
Country: USA

When I started watching The Thin Blue Line I had the distinct feeling that I had seen this film before. Then I remembered how last year I watched the Fred Armisen/Bill Hader show Documentary Now and they had parodied The Thin Blue Line as ‘The Eye Doesn’t Lie’. Now that I have seen The Thin Blue Line I cannot help but marvel at how well this parody has been executed.

It also got me to thinking of the 2015 sensation Making A Murderer. The difference being that Morris does provide you with the identity with the likely murderer – a man who got immunity for pointing the blame at Adams and some years later ended up on death row himself.

It is so clear from watching The Thin Blue Line that Randall Adams did not murder the police officer. Director Errol Morris seemed to have felt this almost immediately after coming across this case. Adams was not even meant to be the focus of this documentary; instead the focus was meant to be on the psychologist whose testimony had resulted in a large number of death penalties being handed out and the nickname of “Doctor Death”.

The case itself feels so flimsy that it is ridiculous. The fact that it took 12 years and a movie in order for the verdict to be overturned is atrocious. What is even worse is that due to the way Adams was released he received no compensation whatsoever. If it was an official pardon he would have gotten something… but not for this. The whole thing is awful.

So much about The Thin Blue Line feels important. As someone who enjoys watching documentaries it is interesting how many have since mimicked the interview style that we seen in this film. Morris goes on to use this face-on interviewee image in his later films, such as the acclaimed 2003 documentary Fog Of War which I would encourage anyone interested in politics and documentaries to see. In many ways The Thin Blue Line has left its mark on the documentary genre.

I cannot help but wonder what the impact of this documentary must have had on Dallas County, Texas. In order to demonstrate how Adams could be innocent it has to take on the local police, the courts and a number of residents. Sure, some people end up looking good – such as his defence attorneys Edith James and Dennis White – but so many people come off as something short of monsters. Is monsters too harsh a word? Maybe, but some of these perjurious actions could have resulted in the death/murder of an innocent man. That must be one hell of a conscience that these people possess.

Progress: 558/1007

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