You’ll forgive me, I hope, for coming back so soon to the subject of Adam Curtis, the first part of whose All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace was so ably dissected by Simon Hoggart last week.
You’ll forgive me, I hope, for coming back so soon to the subject of Adam Curtis, the first part of whose All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace was so ably dissected by Simon Hoggart last week. Only, no less a personage than Bryan Appleyard of the Sunday Times has estimated Curtis as ‘TV’s greatest documentary maker’ and the BBC obviously agrees. So, really, two Speccie TV reviews in a fortnight is surely the barest minimum this genius deserves.
Is he, though? Is Curtis really a genius? Well, I’ll tell you right away what he’s good at — so good that I can’t immediately think of anyone who does it better — and that’s mixing and editing. His documentaries aren’t so much documentaries as works of art: the sort of postmodern works of art that you might find being represented by Jay Jopling or winning the Turner Prize.
I don’t mean that in a snarky way. The second part of AWOBMOLG really was an absolute pleasure to experience. It had a cool, apt post-rock/industrial/dubstep soundtrack. And the archive film footage he’d unearthed was just stupendous: Stalinist hippies pretending to be liberated and non-judgmental at a Seventies experimental commune; Fifties naturalists in their long trousers and long-sleeved shirts discovering ecology; a truly bizarre experiment in which a man with a tape recorder followed a deer round the Kansas grasslands, reporting on what it ate and how many mouthfuls; sinister technocrats at the first international environmental conference at Stockholm in 1972 plotting the creation of the New World Order.