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Bitter Lake - new Adam Curtis documentary

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  • Bitter Lake - new Adam Curtis documentary

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode...is-bitter-lake

    Watched the first hour last night - it didn't disappoint - and he managed to shoehorn in some Carry On and Blue Peter footage to excellent effect

    It's currently no. 9 on the iplayer chart! Not bad for 2hour+ long docu.

  • #2
    Very interesting documentary, and very timely too, given the recent death of King Abdullah in Saudi, and pieces like this one in yesterdays' Guardian that really hit the nail on the head with regard to the special relationship we've all been complicit in nurturing.

    That said, I can't be the only one who gets slightly irritated by Curtis's stock repertoire of disjointed grainy videos designed to convey the chaotic and disorienting nature of modern life, under which slowed-down ominous tense library mood techno grates away! Could've kept the stellar narrative and shaved 40 minutes off if he'd had a less sycophantic editor!
    To infinity - and beyond!

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    • #3
      Originally posted by jakartajive View Post
      Could've kept the stellar narrative and shaved 40 minutes off if he'd had a less sycophantic editor!
      Needless to say, he does his own editing!
      SPIRIT DUPLICATOR Est 2015.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by SirSlim View Post
        and he managed to shoehorn in some Carry On and Blue Peter footage to excellent effect
        and Solaris. the archival footage is always fascinating, dug out of corporate / governmental libraries and basements.

        Originally posted by jakartajive View Post
        Could've kept the stellar narrative and shaved 40 minutes off if he'd had a less sycophantic editor!
        he had an editor?

        that said, I worked my way through it yesterday and as with most of Adam Curtis' doc's, it took a singular point of view, wove a (mostly) strong narrative and told a very interesting tale in an absorbing way without descending into polemic. and it raised lots more questions than it answered. that Texan socialite must have some tales to tell, if she could remember them.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by alanmck View Post
          that Texan socialite must have some tales to tell, if she could remember them.
          Indeed.

          Have now watched the rest of it, the footage of the conceptual art "lesson"...

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          • #6
            Originally posted by SirSlim View Post
            Indeed.

            Have now watched the rest of it, the footage of the conceptual art "lesson"...
            There must be folks on here who've been party to the fine works of the British Council?

            Surely it can't all be as well thought out, considered and culturally sensitive as that little vignette was.

            Don't know if' folks have seen this, from Vice magazine... Jon Ronson and Adam Curtis in conversation

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            • #7
              Originally posted by alanmck View Post
              Don't know if' folks have seen this, from Vice magazine... Jon Ronson and Adam Curtis in conversation
              I hadn't - thanks Al - illuminating.

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              • #8
                Just got through 'Bitter Lake' today and found it to be rather a mixed experience. I know I'm not the only one to make the point, but just in case, IT'S TOO BLOODY LONG...Don't get me wrong here; the main thrust of the argument, that western politicians have, in recent times, attempted to boil down complex political situations into simple good vs. evil scenarios is essentially correct and, using the recent history of Afghanistan as an example, it serves as a good starting point for debate in that respect.

                I'm aware Curtis is often criticized for putting style above substance - I believe that is an unfair oversimplification, but it is clear that the trademark archive footage and rather doomy trip hop soundtracks are becoming a bit of a soft target (see here for example). For me the problem is that they give too much of a fatalistic air to his arguments, which is a pity because having a bit of insight is something that no-one should ever have to feel embarrassed about.

                I know nothing of television production, but I suspect one advantage to this archive montage style is that it's relatively cheap, although surely a large part of the budget must go on licensing the music. This sticks in the craw a bit when one considers the funding difficulties encountered by the equally provocative Jonathan Meades who uses the visual potential of TV to the max, only to have his 'BBC Collection' DVD butchered down from six discs to two, simply because Auntie won't stump up for the soundtrack licensing.

                This low budget approach has kept Curtis on the air (or at least on I-Player) but I have to wonder if it doesn't have a downside in allowing too much visual self indulgence - his argument is substantive, but there's really no reason that this film couldn't have clocked in at around 90 minutes...there's really nothing more to be gained from wandering into Ceaucescu territory.

                Perhaps my main gripe with the film is that although it's main point (the rise of the 'good vs. evil' explanation of world affairs) is essentially true, it seems to just 'suddenly' appear in the narrative without any proper explanation, round about the time Reagan and Thatcher come to power, leaving Curtis vulnerable to accusations of conspiracy theory and assertion.

                Although (to be fair) he makes the good point that this viewpoint would come to be be adopted by politicians of all hues, I can't help but get a whiff of the denial that is often evident amongst the 'liberal intelligentsia' (in so far as it still exists in a non-oxymoronic sense) these days that a dearth of ideas and accommodation to the market on the western political left played a large part in creating the current collapse into barbarism. After all, pretty much every left-wing party in the west, from the rise of Stalin to the collapse of the eastern bloc, defined itself by it's relation to the Soviet Union and was still navel-gazingly locked into this debate even as it crumbled.

                On the plus side, the irony of how a country that only 60 years ago coveted the modern western lifestyle has now descended into the backwardness of bloodthirsty hordes fighting to oversee a return to the 7th century is not lost on the viewer - it seems we have a few questions about ourselves to ponder. Still, enough of my ramblings - get it watched and tell us what you think, eh?
                you can hear colours when they rhyme...

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by jakartajive View Post
                  slowed-down ominous tense library mood techno
                  I wish it was! I was 'shocked and appalled' to hear Messiaen's 'Jardin Du Sommeil d'amour' being juxt'd with horrific war footage, i'm going to write a letter, bah, grumble...etc...

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by diggerdumper View Post
                    I wish it was! I was 'shocked and appalled' to hear Messiaen's 'Jardin Du Sommeil d'amour' being juxt'd with horrific war footage, i'm going to write a letter, bah, grumble...etc...
                    Was that the music that kicks in around the 17 minute mark? - beautiful if it is.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by giantchicken View Post
                      IT'S TOO BLOODY LONG...
                      Have to disagree Big C. The first hour hour just flew by...

                      For once he seemed to have enough "time" to tell his story properly.

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