Cinema Verite Blu-ray Review
“In 1973, the U.S withdrew from Vietnam, the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade, and PBS introduced the first reality TV family.”
When put in the same sentence as these other historical moments, the first reality television show becomes even more meaningless. While I appreciate the ironic humor of the opening statement, HBO’s CINEMA VERITE nearly self fulfills its own prophecy of being unimportant by not diving deep enough into its material. Nevertheless, CINEMA VERITE does manage to capture the era, excellent performances and interesting camera techniques as it follows the making of the first reality show, An American Family, and some of the unforeseen troubles that came with it.
As a sort of behind the scenes making of, the famous documentary, CINEMA VERITE follows the PBS show following the wealthy Loud family. When filmmaker Craig Gilbert (James Gandolfini) has an idea for a television show, the PBS higher ups were not completely on board. But Craig’s passion and salesmanship convinced them to fit the large bill of following the Louds every day using hours and hours of costly film to sift through.
The Loud family consists of Pat (Diane Lane) and Bill (Tim Robbins) as husband and wife who’s marriage has been on a downward slope from Bill’s lack of presence and infidelity. Their children Michelle (Kaitlyn Dever), Grant (Nick Eversman) and Kevin (Johnny Simmons) rightfully get a little less screen time as the drama mostly belongs to the eldest son Lance (superbly performed by Thomas Dekker). Without ever actually saying so, Lance is credited as one of the first open homosexuals on television. However the meat of the story focuses mainly on Pat and Bill’s relationship and is told almost completely from Pat’s point of view.
While Mr. Gilbert fully expected to capture a train wreck to happen, he was not prepared for his camera crew to develop relationships with the different family members. Alan and Susan Raymond (played by Patrick Fugit and Shanna Collins) agreed to be the camera operators that follow the family the majority of the time but begin to refuse to film when the family shows signs of incriminating themselves with embarrassment citing unethical tactics. This is the aspect of CINEMA VERITE I found most interesting. Unfortunately the filmmakers missed on deepening that storyline. Instead they chose to fill in pieces that were already told through the actual documentary An American Family of Pat and Bill’s marriage falling apart and ultimately their decision to get divorced publicly displayed for the world to see.
James Gandolfini and Diane Lane step into their respective roles effortlessly. Gandolfini makes acting look easy as he strikes up natural chemistry with Lane. I’m guessing the filmmakers stayed with their relationship because their performances were so strong when I think they should have focused more on reality television struggles. Lane proves once again why she is one of our best actresses today with the most commanding presence on screen.
An American Family was ahead of its time and opened doors to what makes up half of today’s television. I only wish CINEMA VERITE could have captured the phenomenon and the after affects better. For the record, I had no idea what An American Family was and from what I can tell, CINEMA VERITE does a great job hitting the bullet points using side by side images of real footage and the reenactment footage. The style, performances and the story are all interesting, I just wanted more.
Video: (1080p High Definition 16:9 1.78:1) The video was very impressive on how they intercut current and actually footage of An American Family from which CINEMA VERITE is based on. Replicating the quality of film in the 1970’s was incredible.
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) Excellent sound using old fashion TV recordings and mic and cassette audio.
Audio Commentary with directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini and Actress Diane Lane: The directors really care about their topic and give some interesting behind the scene tidbits and history about CINEMA VERITE. Diane Lane likewise seemed to be very proud and was equally passionate of the film, keeping the commentary lively.
The Making of Cinema Verite (3:32): Kind of quick fluff piece with interviews from those involved describing what CINEMA VERITE is all about.