For those of us, if there can possibly be any left, who have not yet been disabused of the notion that politicians are not largely a shallow and image-obsessed lot, Feed provides some ample proof of what these people are like when their guard is at least lowered, if not totally down. Comprised largely of satellite feeds before interviews went "live" during the 1992 presidential race (and even more centrally focused on the New Hampshire primary), Feed provides an insightful, if not overly "hysterical" (per its keepcase's pull quote), primer on what such vaunted figures as Bill and Hillary, King--er--President George I, Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan, Jerry Brown and others (anyone remember then front-runner Paul Tsongas?) act like when the glare of media spotlights hasn't quite hit fever pitch.
As a big fan of co-director Kevin Rafferty's (Atomic Cafe, The Last Cigarette, which I reviewed here some months ago), I was frankly a bit disappointed with the content of this feature. There are certainly enjoyable tidbits to be had here and there, like repeated cuts to Bush staring off into space for what seems like an eternity as he waits to go live, and Pat Buchanan feistily (does he do anything non-feistily?) leaving a press conference when a reporter dares to ask why he, a lifelong Catholic and supporter of "family values," doesn't have any children, either biological or adopted. There's even a certain voyeuristic pleasure in watching Jerry Brown (who actually comes off as one of the less scripted and most easily articulate of the then-candidates) freak out because his tie isn't hanging straight, or Paul Tsongas posing for pictures in a Speedo (my eyes!), but there's a lack of critical focus, largely due to more leisurely editing if not the source material itself, that is unusual for Rafferty's work. These Presidential wannabes are all easy targets, but the bullseye seems to elude Rafferty, as his forays rarely get more than skin-deep. But maybe that in and of itself is a salient point in a culture immersed in surface values, where not only do we judge a book by its cover, we rarely even open it up to see what it's really about.
The piece however does provide some unexpected insight into the 2008 Presidential race, which already seems like it's been going on for years (maybe because it has). It's fascinating to see "early Hillary" here, with long hair and an quasi-Arkansan twang, dropping final "g"'s right and left and smiling lovingly at Bill as he denies any relationship with Gennifer Flowers. Feed will certainly not dissuade the Clinton-bashers that these two titans of modern political life are calculated and savvy to the point of scariness at times. Which doesn't keep Bill from almost choking on an unexpected cough just seconds before one of his interviews--but watch how quickly he recovers and segues effortlessly into his homespun persona as he begins to answer questions.
The video quality, culled obviously from taped feeds, is not always the best. The 1.33:1 image varies from relatively good (some news footage of Brown shot live at a campus), to pretty bad (Tsongas about to go live, with tracking problems on the source elements). However, that's probably part of the simple charm of this documentary, and is not distracting to any great degree.
The audio generally fares better than the video in this presentation, though some of the non-mic'd comments are very soft and you will need to turn your volume up to 11 to catch them all. All of the "front and center" dialogue is clear and easy to hear. Because a lot of these interview subjects have earpieces, you cannot hear the questions being asked, or, at most, they sound like "Charlie Brown's mother" in the old Peanuts specials, but that, too, is enjoyable as you watch candidates spin answers to questions you haven't heard.
None, other than promos for other First Run Features.
Not quite up to the (exceptionally high) standards of some of Rafferty's other work, Feed nonetheless provides some unvarnished access to candidates who too often rely on nothing but image to make their cases to the American public. Not as laugh-out-loud funny as Atomic Cafe or The Last Cigarette, Feed nevertheless provides some ample food for thought as we Americans head into yet another Presidential contest.
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet