Neil Young’s Film Lounge – A Letter To True



USA 2003 : Bruce WEBER : 78 mins

Bruce Weber has been so wildly successful as a photographer that he’s able to fund intimate, agreeably tangential, wildly self-indulgent little diary/journal/essay/scrapbook home-movies which then get picked up by the film-festival circuit and end up obtaining worldwide arthouse distribution.

Dog Day Afternoons : A LETTER TO TRUERetaining the free-floating structure of Chop Suey, Weber’s noodling musings here are very loosely held together by his affection for dogs – True being one of his beloved pooches. It’s a four-legs-good fondness which happens to be shared by several of his celebrity pals, including Dirk Bogarde and Elizabeth Taylor, who get a ‘chapter’ each before Weber drifts on to the next thing to grab his attention, like a beachcomber ambling along the sands of Montauk – the secluded, upmarket Long Island enclave where Weber and his canines prefer to frolic.

Some of A Letter To True‘s subjects are social/political “issues” about which the film-maker seems genuinely concerned – the state of America post-9/11, the plight of Haitian refugees, etc – but his narration is never anything other than a gentle, slightly soft-headed, naive, child-like ramble. Needless to say, the sprawling mess of a confection that results won’t be to everybody’s tastes, and there’s certainly no shortage of trite, naive juxtapositions along the way.

It does feels mean to criticise Weber, however – to do so feels rather like scolding one of his puppies, tail-wagging and desperate to please. And in these days when American non-fiction film tends to fall squarely into the investigative, confrontational Michael Moore / Morgan Spurlock camp, it’s perhaps quite healthy that such a different kind of voice can still be heard – even if it is that of a multi-millionaire who’s cobbled together an ornately decadent soapbox out of flimsy celluloid.

7th September, 2004
(seen 20th August : Filmhouse Edinburgh : public show – Edinburgh Film Festival)

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by Neil Young