Contemporary cinema (1): “Detroit”

This week I began another of the many courses that I’ve attended over the years at the City Literary Institute in central London. It is called “Contemporary Cinema: The Best Films Of The Year” and the lecturer is the American John Wischmeyer. It is an evening course with one session each week for 10 weeks.

It seems that the plan is that most weeks we will see and discuss clips from an acclaimed recent film and then compare it to a couple of significant older movies. This first week, we focused on last year’s film “Detroit’ [my review here] and compared it with “Medium Cool” (1969) and the French film “The Battle Of Algiers” (1966). Fortunately I have seen each of these three works.

All three films deal with actual events and deploy a documentary style and the course debated how conventional cinema and documentary cinema overlap in look and style. A conventional film using a documentary style tells a story using hand-held cameras and naturalistic dialogue making it look and sound like a documentary. On the other hand, a documentary still has to tell a story and has to be shot and edited with the same tools and choices as a straightforward film.

“Detroit”, as well as narrating a true story and using some actual dialogue, intercuts with┬ácontemporary news footage so drawing the viewer into the experience.


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