I’ve been getting hits (thirteen to date) lately on the new Eggleston documentary, so the least I can do is share vague thoughts two weekes and counting later.
Director Michael Almereyda (HAMLET, NADJA) was there to briefly introduce the film. He said it’s a rough cut, and it shows, particularly in the sound. The video footage that constitutes the bulk of the film needs a lot of audio work – so much so that Eggleston’s speech is often subtitled. His sandpaper baritone, combined with a Memphis accent and less-than-ideal recording conditions, may have been rough going for some. But the titles distracted more than clarified.
The film follows Eggleston around Kentucky (where he was on assignment), Memphis (home), and other locations, over the course of several years. You see him scouting and shooting, hanging out with and sometimes arguing with friends and family; and making the odd appearance to accept an award or give a (laconic) talk. This is intercut with stills of his most famous pictures, and a framework of his career to date.
I was fascinated by shots of Eggleston at work, setting up a tripod outside a small Kentucky grocery store and shooting the rows of pastel-colored tissues that advertised the week’s specials. (I think I saw a print of that one offered on eBay a few yrs ago.) I couldn’t readily id. what he was shooting with. Could have been a bulk-loaded Leica, could have been some medium format rangefinder – it looked a bit unwieldly for street work. The only camera I could clearly identify was a Contax G-1.
I love the Eggleston aesthetic: finding beauty – color, composition – in the ordinary and neglected; sometimes finding tension in same. But I don’t know if Almereyda has sold that aesthetic, or Eggleston the character, to a larger audience.