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Cinema Verite
BLU-RAY disk
04.10.2012 By: Mathew Plale
Cinema Verite order
Director:
Shari Springer, Robert Pulcini

Actors:
James Gandolfini
Diane Lane
Tim Robbins

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
This HBO original movie chronicles the behind-the-scenes story and troubles of the making of the landmark 1973 reality series An American Family.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Three decades before reality television got its own Emmy category, there were the Louds. In 1972, producer Craig Gilbert (James Gandolfini), on nothing but a photo and hearsay, approached Pat Loud (Diane Lane) with a pitch: to follow her, her husband Bill (Tim Robbins) and their five children over the course of seven months.

Pat agreed, because whatís more fun than having cameras follow you everywhere but the bathroom? Craigís crew, newlyweds Alan and Susan (Patrick Fugit, Shanna Collins), watched the family day and night, going about their routines and embracing their hobbies. And thatís all it was supposed to be. As that, An American Family (which aired in 1973 on PBS as a 12-part series) would have been landmark, but not indelible. What made it memorable was a sudden dramatic turn. Partway through filming, Pat and Billís marriage started to deteriorate. He was away a lot on business, and Pat--with help from Craig--put it together that he was having multiple affairs.

Craigís insistence on capturing every second of the collapse, the pressure for ratings and his desire to see his vision reach millions, all brought up a number of ethical questions. Where are the boundaries? When is it OK to interfere, if ever? How much trust is there between producer and star?

But Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulciniís (American Splendor) Cinema Verite, which aired on HBO in April 2011, puts no complexity into the ideas. They lack a subtle approach on the subject and take an on-the-nose approach that limits more than it exposes. On top of that, so many scenes and lines feel as manipulated as every reality series on TV.

Gandfolini, Lane and Robbins all give character to their counterparts, but they are still confined by the simplicity of David Seltzerís script. What the behind-the-scenes story of An American Family needs is more drama, maybe in the form of a multi-part documentary.
THE EXTRAS
Audio commentary with directors Shari Springer and Robert Pulcini and actress Diane Lane: Springer and Lane do most of the talking here, with Pulcini only chiming in occasionally. The ladies reflect fondly on the production, giving details on An American Family, the cast of Cinema Verite and much more.

The Making of Cinema Verite (3:31): This brief featurette uses interviews, clips and on-set footage to look at the cast, their characters and the movie.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
The directing team of Shari Springer and Robert Pulcini have taken the story of whatís considered the first reality series, An American Family, and dumbed it down for modern reality TV fans. So many scenes and lines feel manipulated and simplified, and the movie canít expand on ideas of documentary/journalistic ethics. The transfers are fine on this DVD, but fans will want to spend a few extra dollars on the Blu-ray.
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