RARA-AVIS: Hellman-Hammett

Geraldine Kudaka (gkudaka@csi.com)
Fri, 02 Jul 1999 12:05:20 -0700

My take on the two documentaries was that Hellman was made by a filmmaker who had access to a lot of people... If you look at the two films, Ring Larder in the Hammett film is much older. Made me think the Hellman doc must have been made some years ago, when there were more people around who knew the two.

Also, the thing about the Hammett film is the writer/director (who's name I don't have on my fingertips) was one of those guys enamored with himself. His documentary has "reconstruction" scenes, such as when we hear the story of Hammett's Sitkak(sp?) told over this "noirish" original footage. If you look at structure of the documentary, you'll see these well-done scenes
(like the noirish footage) or shots of old fashioned glasses and rotoscoped/blue-screen talking heads with moving documentary or feature footage. This guy wanted to direct a feature film with Hammett's work, and was convinced his take on Hammett's work was more interesting than Hammett himself -- he spent the budget on these "dramatic reconstructions" or
"filmic techniques" instead of simply telling us about Hammet's life.

Hellman is a much better film because the filmmaker does a good job of presenting Hellman as a complex person.

For people in So. Cal, PBS is reshowing these two docs on Sunday.

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