Film can be an interpretive medium with beautiful images and ideas that can reflect cultures and the current state of the world.  It’s an incredible way for people to tell stories and ignite discussion.

Documentary cinematographer Kirsten Johnson has experienced the wonders of the medium over her lengthly career.  The moments she has captured with her camera have helped documentarians, but not all of her footage is used – Johnson’s latest directorial stab Cameraperson is a collection of these unused one-of-a-kind sequences.

Cameraperson has been well received on the festival circuit, and is currently winning accolades with many predicting Oscar buzz (the Toronto Film Critics Association recently awarded the film as 2016’s best documentary).  What’s important to stress is the film’s experimental nature.  With Cameraperson, Johnson simply serves clips with little context.  Movie goers are left to notice details in mannerisms of Johnson’s subjects, and piece together the significance.

This type of unique puzzle is suited for an acquired audience.  Other movie goers may endlessly search for reasons why Cameraperson exists.  I belong in the latter grouping.

I can respect Camraperson and even admire Kirsten Johnson’s impeccable cinematography, but I can’t recommend this movie.  When I watched Johnson’s doc, I saw a passion project that was missing its passion.  It’s a film disinterested in organization with an occasional cloying quality to its heavier visuals.  It’s been cobbled together in a way that resembles someone scrubbing through the cutting room floor of a newsroom.

Cameraperson needed more context.  I appreciate the idea of a movie resembling interpretive art, but audiences need more substance to build their own opinions.  Without this base, audiences are stuck with a film full of empty albeit gorgeous rarities.

Cameraperson has a fantastic cinematographer, but it’s missing a coherent director.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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