I despise the paparazzi.
I’ve heard all the justifications for them. I’ve heard people claim that celebrities know what they’re getting into and they shouldn’t complain and that’s the price of fame, and I don’t buy it. Not at all.
Like anyone, celebrities are people working a job, and that job has certain demands built into it. When they are at a publicity event or working on a set or making an appearance, they are absolutely fair game, and it should be expected that photos will be taken and demands will be made. But everyone deserves a private life as well, and the paparazzi exist to rob them of every single second of that privacy. What they do is inhuman, and it debases everyone involved.
I like the films of documentarian Leon Gast. I’m not as fond of “Smash His Camera” as many other critics seem to be, precisely because I feel like it lets photographer Ron Galella off the hook. The film does its best to make him seem sympathetic, and I just can’t let myself get pulled into that. The film also raises the question of whether his photographs are art, and that’s a debate that is worth having, even if I may not come down on the same side of the question as Gast and Galella obviously do.
He’s taken some amazing photographs over the years. He’s very good at what he does. There is a real sense of pop culture history when you look through his archives. He worked in an era where movie stars were Movie Stars, and he caught many of them in remarkable private moments. His work is revealing and, at times, intimate.
Doesn’t change how I feel about him, but at least I can acknowledge how strong the guy’s eye is. I reviewed the movie at Sundance this year, along with Adrien Grenier’s “Teenage Paparazzi,” which I thought did a better job of exploring what the industry is these days and how the paparazzi and celebrities feed off of each other.
I’m pleased to present you with this exclusive clip so you can check the film out for yourself, and I do think that my problems with Galella’s industry color the way I view the movie. It’s hard to shake off my moral distaste for paparazzi and just enjoy what it obviously a well-crafted film.
As Roger Ebert said, “Ron Galella is a viper, a parasite, a stalker, a vermin. He is also, I have decided, a national treasure.” The movie opens tomorrow in NY and then rolls out in limited release in the weeks that follow.
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