Would you rather be informed or entertained? Can you really be informed?… does truth in film even exist? Quality vs. Content. Fact vs. Fiction. Let’s play a game of would you rather…
Time for a quick history lesson:
Film, especially early on, was known as a poor-mans entertainment. The legitimate theater was for high-class society. You had to dress up to attend, pay a special high price for a seat and it was live! Films were short in length, often odd and funny in content and only a nickle, hence the term “Nickelodeon”. You would pay 5 cents and while staring into a small box watch a funny clip and walk away amused. Pure and simple entertainment. A quick fix, if you will.
Take us to the present, to the hay-day of the #biopic. So many lives, careers and circumstances examined. So many “based on a true story” films told!
We must remember though that they use the words “based on” very loosely…
#YankeeDoodleDandy (1942) is a perfect example of truth gone array. Like many films prior and following, its disrupts the natural order of the main subjects life, #GeorgeM.Cohan. Cohan, a legendary Broadway song and dance man, play write, producer and devoted patriot, was perfectly portrayed by legendary song and dance man #JamesCagney. Care was taken to choreograph and execute the original script of Cohan by Cagney throughout the film. Authenticity of costumes, set design and even the style of Cohan’s stage performance was vital, to pay tribute and respect to this genius and his theatrical masterpieces… however, ordering of pivotal life events and circumstances were altered all for the greater good… entertainment value.
It’s always cuter to have a little sister. Cohan’s little sister Josie (played by Cagney’s real-life sister) was actually 4 years his senior. His father Jeremiah, who helped make him the man he was is the last remaining immediate family member in the film and dramatically dies, leaving George without anything or anyone from his past, yet in reality, his father died before his mother Helen.
On-screen George falls in love with a young dancer from Buffalo, Mary (she went by her middle name, her first being Agnes), who he later marries and remains with till his death. She was the one woman in his life… but not always… George was actually romantically involved with a young performer whom he later married, divorced and had a child with. I should also mention that the film makes no mention of any of George’s offspring, which number 4, 3 of which came from his second wife Mary.
One famous tune, “Mary’s a Grand Old Name”, was written for his dear wife Mary, right before they were married… adorable! A song and a marriage proposal. What else can one ask for? THE TRUTH? That hit song was actually written for his second child with Mary, named Mary, whom he adored!
Now, let us jump ahead a few decades (at the very least this blog will remain true to the timeline of film history!!!) to 2006. #SofiaCoppola releases her latest cinematic disaster #MarieAntoinette. I say this because critics dissected it and didn’t bother to paste it back together.
It was boo’ed at #Cannes.
It didn’t really deal with anything.
The main characters exchanged looks, not words.
BUT THE COSTUMES AND PROPS WERE SPECTACULAR. Which almost made up for the fact that the film wasn’t.
Another exception would be the films re-enactment of #MarieAntoinette’s infamous parties, exactly what a teenager with a kingdom, fame, and daddy’s credit card would throw! Though, in this case her hubbys.
This film is counted as one of Coppola’s worst by many critics and viewers alike, however Vulture.com‘s writer Amanda Dobbin’s wholeheartedly defends it as a most accurate portrayal of a rich, spoiled, teenager with mommy issues and identity confusion.
Anyone who experienced teenager-hood can agree to this. Those long stares of the films star #KirstenDunst into the abyss does remind one of their youth, the days of laying on your bed, staring up at the ceiling and listening to angry girl music and thinking, what is the point of it all?, late into the night….and she too agrees, the costumes are fabulous!!
Maybe we should shift our focus question from does truth exist in film too, why do we go to the movies?
When discussing the recent made-for-tv-miniseries #Bonnie&Clyde (not to mention the 1967 Arthur Penn film version) @AndySwift, writer for hollywoodlife.com insists that everyday people, the greater film-going population, attends movie screenings to be entertained!! Its an escape from the harsh realities that we are surrounded with and a chance to experience someone else’s life, good or bad. Either way, we leave the truth behind. We are in a fantasy world. If we wanted to be informed or educated down to the specifics we could read a book!
Those of us in the #filmproduction industry often go to get inspired. Sure, sometimes its a story about an inspirational figure in history, an intriguing social issue or just a fun time period, but we may more attention to the film making process and accuracy than your average film-goer. Regardless of the reason, you should remember, you can’t believe everything you see, so take it all with a grain of salt. Too much salt is bad for the heart.