Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Ken Burns is the Anti-Christ
NPR has been doing a series on Lewis and Clark which has been interesting to listen to, but brings up one of my favorite rants about documentaries these days.
Let me put it succinctly- Ken Burns is the AntiChrist.
My God and oily dishes- I cannot stand any of Ken Burns' documentaries. I well remember the first one, his epic saga on the Civil War. How I was looking forward to it. I anticipated it for months... and then turned it off within 35 minutes and have never watched more than five minutes of a Ken Burns documentary since.
Ken Burns is to history what McDonald's is to haute cuisine.
What am I bitching about? Documentation. Context. And the complete lack of them in Burns' work.
Burns' documentaries are all about period quotes- quotes from speeches, letters, books, whatever. As such they could be extremely interesting. But he has this maddening, evil conceit of having an actor read a quote and then only telling you who the hell you were listening to after the quote is done, and then he doesn't fucking tell you who the quoted person was.
How artsy. How fartsy. How completely, utterly useless to anyone actually interested in history.
That is the historical equivalent of cutting God's finger off the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and framing it. Who's finger is it? What's he pointing at?
The only relevance any quote has is if you know who said it, and who that person was. Without that information, all those wonderful quotes are a complete and utter waste of time. Was the person Union or Confederate? Military or civilian? Officer or enlisted man? Burns tells us nothing.
Ken Burns is the Barry Bonds of documentaries.
An apt simile, since he did a series on baseball I would have been pleased to watch, and did watch five minutes of, until I saw that he was still serving up his own conceited version of "art".
And the vile virus is spreading. Others are being infected with the absurd, obnoxious Burns' conceit. Fie on them and all their houses. We want context and documentation, not "art".
Yes, Ken Burns is the AntiChrist.