Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Models (1999) review


Let's be frank: these times are going to be seen as more decadent in-scope than the Weimar Republic. I have only recently come to find Ulrich Seidl's documentaries, but this is how it should be done when portraying a society, and her inhabitants. His style is very matter-of-fact, and is pretty voyeuristic. While this documentary is ostensibly about a subculture of models in Vienna, Austria, it really could be anywhere in the Westernized world. This is a common-theme of Seidl's documentaries, and I believe it isn't always his intention. Like the director, we are seeing these people and their lives for the first-time.The same social-trends and phenomena going-on nearly everywhere in our era, and Seidl is simply capturing them as they are.

Of course, all cinema is artifice, but somehow, even in his set-ups, the director is able to capture those amazing moments-of-truth that even escape the participants. What is singularly-depressing and distressing is how much all of this resembles America. Why travel, when everything is a hellish urban-sprawl underlining the meaningless-existence of our current human-society? Seidl
has an answer: People, and how they deal with this yawning-abyss of modernity. It's an observation that offers some hope. Somehow, individuals survive and continue-on. People matter to Ulrich Seidl.

Some reviewers have stated they felt Seidl "hates his subjects," which I find to be patently-false. He shows them unadulterated, and for what they are. His camera's-gaze is--as in all of his films--non-judgmental and authoritative. There has been some controversy over the director's documentaries being "staged," which is unlikely given the obvious sincerity of the models. Somehow, Seidl managed to get his subjects to relax, and to be themselves with no filtering. It's sad that young-women enter this life--if you want to call it that. They mutilate-themselves, starve-themselves, and hate-themselves. Maybe they already did.

The final-tableau is an incredible-moment that is undeniable in its truth: the main-model and her boyfriend are having a post-coital conversation (while drinking-in-bed in a Hotel). An ambulance is heard outside, and she says, "They're taking someone like you away," and she laughs. She continues: "You know, I know a good psychoanalyst." The boyfriend responds, "I didn't think people like you could survive without a psychoanalyst." The extended laughing-fit he falls-into is both hilarious, and chilling, as the model seems to slowly sinks-into-herself...a powerful-truth has been revealed in the birthplace of analysis. This is the time we live-in. Models is a documentary that delivers on all-fronts, and exposes the Nietzschean-abyss. We're blowing-it.