Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Leon Gast's SMASH HIS CAMERA: the wonders of a particular paparazzo
paparazzi -- the Italian slang word that came to fashion internationally and described the hordes of photographers that surround celebrities like gnats, mosquitoes or other unwanted flying insects (this also constitutes the word's derivation) -- the name Ron Galella should also ring a bell. First seen, by TrustMovies at least, on film in La Dolce Vita, Italian paparazzi came to America via Mr. Galella, who is their most famous exponent on these shores and who is, I imagine, of Italian descent. Most famous for his stalking (and his endless array of photographs) of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, America's most famous paparazzo is now the subject of a new documentary from Leon Gast (of When We Were Kings) entitled SMASH HIS CAMERA, the title of which doubles as the directive Jackie gave her secret service watchdogs regarding how to handle the ever-encroaching photographer.
What makes the movie moderately interesting is Mr. Galella himself, whom we see back in the day (just below) and now (two photos below). His obsession with Jackie K.O. seems exactly that, and his constant stalking/photographing could drive anyone a little nuts. In a moment of rare and rather simple-minded reflection, the photographer analyzes himself and tells us that he probably was doing all this because he didn't have a girlfriend at the time. Duh. He soon had a wife, however, one who has lasted for decades and appears to provide definition to the Biblical word "helpmeet."
Liz Smith is one of the former, who notes that because Jackie is sort-of smiling in some of the photos Galella took, this may mean that she secretly, maybe was kinda fond of the guy and/or his work. Hmmm.) Artist Chuck Close is one of the later, as are attorney's who worked for Ms Jackie. Attorneys who worked/work for Galella, of course, feel differently, and one of the more interesting moments in the film comes as they argue about the nature and legality of what Galella was (and is still) doing.
Taylor and Burton on their yacht, with Liz putting up outdoor "curtains" to block the view as hordes of tourist boats pass by; some time spent on Michael Jackson, below), we keep coming back and back to Jackie until -- who'd a thunk it -- even she beings to bore. And then she's dead. And Galella feels bad.
I don't dislike Galella, or care that much about what he does, but unless you're simply celebrity-besotted, this movie is finally too long and too much. And though it appears to deal with subjects such as celebrity & privacy, art & commerce, it really has little to say or show that proves original.
Magnolia Pictures, open this Friday, July 30, in New York City at the Cinema Village, with no other theatrical playdates apparently scheduled by the distributor. This may be because the film, an HBO documentary, has already been shown via that for-pay cable channel and undoubtedly will be again.