I am a big fan of Errol Morris‘ New York Times Opinionator Blog where the documentary filmmaker can burn through 15000 words on the placement of some cannon balls on a road in Crimea in the 19th century, or about the absurdity of a man trying to make himself invisible to bank security cameras by putting lemon juice on his face. Thus, his step up to making short films for the NYT is too good to wait for Friday’s “Shorts Programme” regular feature.
Morris’ visual essay, or rather his interotronning of an academic who wrote the wrote the definitive book on the Zapruder film, Josiah “Tink” Thompson, focuses on one one of the strange facts in the JFK assassination – a man holding an open umbrella on a beautiful sunny day, mere meters from where the President was shot. It is riveting stuff — OK, if you use Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel on the soundtrack everything is riveting by default.
I adore Tink’s simple thesis on this man with the umbrella as a greater look at evidence, truth, and reality of history which might just be the most succinct summation of Errol Morris’ entire documentary career: “If you put any event under a microscope, you will find a whole dimension of completely weird, incredible things going on. It is as if there is the macro level of historical research where things sort of obey the natural laws and the usual things happen and unusual things don’t happen, and then there is this other level where everything is just really weird.”
The Umbrella Man is a cautionary tale of non-conspiracy.
The 6.5 minute short is tucked under the seat.