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Friday, August 2, 2013

Eight Movies About Photographers

Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer opened today, and because we know BAM filmgoers are diligent about their favorite pastime, we thought they might want to do some pre-show preparation. Below, find eight movies (with some bonus ones in the descriptions) about photographers that we recommend as companions and context.

Bill Cunningham New York
Perhaps closest in subject matter to Jamel Shabazz Street Photographer is this ingratiating documentary, a tender portrait of a photographer and his city. Learn why Cunningham's meticulous approach to layout can be maddening to his editors, what the differences are between shooting street fashion and gala events, and where Cunningham has the same modest lunch every day.

William Eggleston in the Real World
Also from the documentary corner is this entry from East Village fixture Michael Almereyda (director of the Ethan Hawke Hamlet), an intimate look at an elusive genius. Almereyda's signature laid-back style gives the viewer the feeling of simply hanging out with the eccentric Eggleston, which is no small feat. For bonus points, seek out Eggleston's own movie, the 1973 freakout Stranded in Canton.

Little Murders
"If I told them I wasn't staring at them, they would have beat me up for beating a liar. And if I told them I was staring at them because I wanted to take their picture, then they'd beat me up for being a cop. So I told them I was staring at them because they looked familiar and they beat me up for being a fag!" Elliott Gould is at his broody best as a disillusioned photographer in this 1971 dark comedy. The movie isn't explicitly about his photography, but his descriptions of his career and art, and a great scene of him taking pictures in the park scored by the Modern Jazz Quartet, provide a through-line to the softening nihilism of one of his greatest characters. Watch the beginning below.

Oliver Stone directs a jittery James Woods in this story about a photojournalist who gets in hot water in El Salvador. Right wing militants! Leftist guerillas! James Belushi!

Harvey Keitel owns a Brooklyn cigar store and takes the same picture of the same intersection every day. Ultimate street photographer?

Annie Hall
One of the most touching things in the greatest romantic comedy ever made is when we see that during Annie and Alvy's temporary break-up, she's kept up her photos of him during one of their best moments, when they tried to boil lobster. Annie's photos immortalize the moment; later in the film Alvy tries to recreate it with a different woman with less success. This clip's a little warped, but we wanted you to see what scene we're talking about.

Rear Window
It doesn't get any better than this. If you haven't seen Hitchcock's Rear Window, you might want to open up a new tab and put it in the queue. Here's Martin Scorsese telling you why it's less important what happens in Rear Window than how it looks. Sounds appropriate for the kind of movies about photographers.

Blow Up
Probably the only serious competition with Rear Window for the Most Iconic Movie About a Photographer award, Antonioni's eerie treatment of swinging London follows a fashion photographer who also takes his own arty shots, and finds something suspicious in one of the landscapes. Later, there are mimes. For extra credit, follow it up with some of the movies it inspired: Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation, Brian DePalma's Blowout, and Edward Yang's The Terrorizers. 

What did we miss?


  1. You forgot Pecker by John Waters!

    1. Good call, AK! That was an oversight. Chrissy wants a Jolt!


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