Tuesday, December 23, 2008

that other milk film

mrs. noz and i saw the times of harvey milk last night. "the times" is one of those famously great films of the past that i have long wanted to watch, but had never gotten around to seeing. i probably still wouldn't have gotten around to it if milk hadn't come out with such great fanfare. i haven't seen "milk" yet. but i thought it would be a good idea to see the famous documentary about him first. which is what we did last night.

the documentary really does live up to the hype. the story itself is pretty compelling, maybe a documentary about those events couldn't help but be interesting given what happened. but the filmmakers made some interesting choices that shaped the film. they could have focused more on the trial of dan white with its famous twinkie defense. or it could have told us more about harvey milk's life before politics (he was in his 40s when he began his political career), or about his family background, or his move to san francisco, or his decision to come out. none of those things is the focus of the documentary, some are barely mentioned at all. instead, it gives us what the filmmaker thinks of as "the times of harvey milk", meaning the period between his first run for political office through the aftermath of his assassination. that is the quintessential milk period. at least it is to those of us who know him only as a public figure.

i'm kind of curious about that other stuff. "milk", as a work of historic fiction, has the potential of filling in some of those gaps. but the documentary stays focused on "the times", probably to its benefit. what is really remarkable is that the 1984 documentary wasn't made all that long after "the times" that it portrays. what seems to me like peering back in time, to a period when homosexuals still were not completely accepted in san francisco (of all places), probably didn't seem so dated to the filmmakers.