Thin Blue Line [1988]

These are the three films that first made Errol Morris's name as a documentary filmmaker, defining a unique artist with an unsparing eye for the truth--the truth of human behavior or legal authority. His first feature, 1978's Gates of Heaven, is a wildly funny and surprisingly moving look at pet cemeteries, and the people who invest an extraordinary degree of emotion in their little darlings. Already Morris is locked into his straight-on camera style, which allows his subjects to soliloquize at length about their most obsessive notions. Listen to our interview with Errol Morris. Vernon, Florida (1981) is very much of a piece with Gates, as Morris travels to a small town in Florida's panhandle and allows the oddball denizens to babble on about anything. It has always been an open question whether Morris's blank stare encourages laughter at the expense of his subjects or simply wide-eyed wonder that folks like this carry on in the world, but Vernon viewers will likely be both amused and astonished. The Thin Blue Line is like In Cold Blood in the sense that it examines a real-life murder case, but it goes much further than reportage: Morris's investigations actually helped alter the judgments in the Texas case, especially affecting the conviction of a hitchhiker named Randall Adams. And the movie is a work of art: a hypnotic bad dream with surreal images and a lulling rhythmic movement (enhanced by Philip Glass's music). It's the kind of movie that might have taken place in Adams's mind as he sat on Death Row, replaying the events that made his life go wrong. --Robert Horton Errol Morris and the Art of the Documentary More Errol Morris DVDs Documentaries Documentary Essentials

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