“Fred Wiseman’s Kino Pravda,” From The Camera Age: Essays On Television, By Michael J. Arlen

(One should acknowledge here that a criticism that was originally directed against a certain loosely made and self-important style of verite filmmaking – namely that the camera’s presence has a tendency to distort the “truth” of particularly scenes – has lately become rather gratuitously expanded into an all-embracing cliche to the effect that any camera inevitably distorts, and thus renders “untrue,” any human environment it appears in. Sometimes even Heisenberg’s rigorous uncertainty principle had been put forward in expert support of this opinion, as if subatomic particles and human beings brushed their teeth in the same way. A more reasonable view, one imagines, would be that a camera held by a cameraman is not all that unlike – in intrusive social effect – a notebook held by a reporter. That is, in both instances, provided there is care, patience, self-effacement, and a willingness to be bored to death, a record of actuality may be obtained whose distortions, as a result of even unconscious “acting,” will prove to be negligible.)


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