DVD review: Smash His Camera [PG]

Dir: Leon Gast
Starring: Ron Galella

The Film
Smash His Camera is a documentary that centers on the life and times of Ron Galella, dubbed the ‘first paparazzo’ and possibly the most notorious one. It examines the nature, effect and moral essence of the paparazzi.

It is an intriguing premise, and a compelling film. Ron Galella is an interesting character (he really IS a character). The way he goes about doing his business and the shameless ways he gets his scoops is just quite a sight to see. I think I spent a good half of this film with my jaw on my lap, I just could not believe some of the extremes he went to, in order to do this job. His photos are interesting, and I guess you can argue for and against whether they have any artistic merit to warrant them being showcased in an exhibiton. The main attraction isn’t whether they are good or artistic shots, it is the subject contained within the photos that is fascinating. Capturing a celebrity during candid moments, that is what draws people in to his photos (and what the paparazzi do). It is seeing what it is like on the other side, away from what we see on screen or in concert performing. Being able to experience someone, as they actually are I think is the driving force behind Galella’s work and the paparazzi. Why do we find famous people so interesting? Because quite simply they aren’t us, they give us an outlet to express feelings we have about ourselves and others in our lives.

This is a thought provoking film, much like we have our own opinions of said famous people (99% of which are likely false), we don’t really get to see what drives the people that get their pictures out there. Back when Galella started, there really wasn’t anyone else quite like him; he was the one following people around. He had to get to their locations before they did; he did it when not many others were. He paved the way for the influx of paparazzi now, and when you see the contrast between him snapping shots somewhere back in the early 70’s and now, the number is insane. He no longer stands out from the crowd, and there is a fierce competition out there. Back then the tabloids and papers didn’t have a whole bunch of paparazzi shots to choose from, and being one of the few he became famous in his own right.

The film doesn’t aim to be biased; it actually quite fairly portrays Galella and his profession as well as those who are against it. It does not try to say this opinion is correct or this other one is, it simply tells a fair story and allows the viewer to make up his or her own mind. It is quite a smart film, the footage is pieced together extremely well, a great editing job indeed. It is a fun film, a sad film, an eye opening film, and one of the stronger documentaries I have seen recently. The visuals of Galella’s archive is amazing, seeing how many shots he has taken over the years is astounding. One scene in particular shows them looking through Andy Kaufman pictures, and Michael Richards and Larry David happened to be with him but at the time they weren’t very well known. Keeping those shots, means now that they are, they can showcase them during their early career days. He has an incredible collection of photos from those who have passed, some lovely shots that really capture why the public fell in love with those figures. I do think it is a great thing that he does in share his work (even for a profit), because it gives us a chance to see those moments and see another side to the famous people.

The biggest aspect in this story is Galella’s relationship with Jackie O, she was his passion and he was a torn in her side. The film chronicles his time spent chasing her for photos, and the subsequent lawsuit that followed. Another very interesting part is his relationship with Marlon Brando, and the incident where Brando punched him in the face. How much is too much? And where does the line have to be drawn? I’ll let you decide on that, this film is a strong recommendation.

The Australian DVD 
Audio/Video: An absolutely beautiful DVD transfer, the visual experience was wonderful. The audio had the option of 5.1 or 2.0, it was crystal clear.

Extras: The DVD release will come with one additional extra.
*Theatrical Trailer


Thanks to Ben from MadMan for his support.

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