The most striking thing about Errol Morris’ new documentary Tabloid, besides the literally unbelievable story, is the director’s decision to leave whole sections of interview footage uncovered.
Minutes go by without b-roll.
Instead, we see the exposed footage, jump cuts and all.
To complicate the matter, like many of his recent documentaries, Morris continuously tracks the camera when shooting interviews. So what might be a subtle right-to-left movement when seen in its entirety, in Tabloid becomes not only a jump cut but a startling shift with head shots jumping across the screen.
For transitions, the director simply fades to black before fading up again, sometimes to the same speaker.
Altogether, it’s a pretty dramatic technique.
At first glance, I’d say the decision to do this was made, in part, to combat a lack of archival material. Many of the scenes were simply never filmed. But Morris is no stranger to reenactment. He’s recreated scenes in many of his films. So why not here too?
It’s a good question; one that I’d like to hear him address.
The more pertinent question though is, does it work? I have to say, given the film’s reliance on point-of-view as a narrative device, I think it does.
Oddly, that just might be Tabloid’s most startling revelation.