Friday, January 14, 2005

Camera Buff

It was always going to be fairly hard to get up on time this morning, but my cause was not assisted by a substantial firework display at 4am just over the river in Deptford. Whatever it is they were celebrating, lets hope for their sake that it was a matter of broad interest and appeal in south east London.

The news item of the moment reminds me of someone I know in Guatemala who, on spotting any 'Germans' (blond, not obviously American) on the move along the pavement, likes to pull up in his car in order to give them an exuberantly friendly Nazi salute. Remarkably he is yet to be disabused of the conviction that his heartwarming gesture will ensure that the canches feel right at home in Antigua.

It's a shame that it had to be Prince Harry and not Tony Blair that made this fancy dress faux pas, but after three weeks of global catastrophe mania only a high cresting roller of a story of this magnitude was capable of driving the tsunami from our front pages.

Anyway, my late night was topped off by a renewed attempt to get through to the end of Camera Buff (1979), a film that marked Kieslowski's point of transformation from documentary film-maker into cinematic poet.

Appropriately enough it is a tale about a denizen of Warsaw called Filip who buys a cine camera to record his daughter's first few months only to become obsessed with recording almost everything he observes. As a result his domestic relationships are ruined, and his professional (which segue into his political) ones complicated. This vocational urge to represent and then to narrate is shown to be essentially destablising even if, like Filip, the budding amateur artist otherwise has life quite well sorted out.

Camera Buff is more light-hearted and possibly also more light-weighted than Kieslowski's later works. Superficially nothing much happens in these either, but they benefit from a mood of otherworldly profundity that somehow keeps you a bit more rivetted.

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