McCullin - DVD Review

''In his darkroom he is finally alone', begins Carol Ann Duffy's famous War Photographer poem. There's a sense the same is sometimes true of the person being studied here.'

Not a documentary that will win awards for its innovative style, McCullin remains a sterling example of how a point-and-shoot, talking heads approach can still be a perfectly acceptable way of bringing a topic to the screen. In this case, that topic is Don McCullin, a photographer noted for his work during armed conflicts the world over and for his incredibly intense persona, on show here in the many head shot interviews.

McCullin is clearly a man with a world view and directors David and Jacqui Morris attempt to draw this out during their interviews with him, supplemented by one or two former colleagues and many of his images, reproduced on screen. Their greatest success is in examining the quite obvious tension between his generally passive, liberal, personality and the fact that he makes his living selling, often, photographs of death. There's no real answer here to the rights and wrongs of that, but clearly it is a question that has vexed McCullin previously and which he continues to aspire to answer. He is bullish about some of the things he has done to help aside from taking photographs in war zones but he also clearly recognises that there is a tension present in his work. 'In his darkroom he is finally alone', begins Carol Ann Duffy's famous War Photographer poem. There's a sense the same is sometimes true of the person being studied here.

Whilst there is a lot then, about how McCullin sees himself and his work, if there's a major problem with McCullin, the film, it's that we hear remarkably little feedback from others about what the man himself does and how he does it. Former Times editor, Sir Harold Evans, who was essentially ousted when Rupert Murdoch purchased the paper, has some kind words and a smattering of analysis, but beyond him there is little of note and very few pieces of close analysis of McCullin's artistic style. If McCullin's photographs are a deep pictorial analysis of tortured souls in dangerous places, then it is a shame that the film portrait of himself is only surface level.

What the film does have in terms of a deeper view is certainly something to say about humanity and our appetite for destruction and its description. Sir Harold describes McCullin as having an awareness of 'the futility of it' and certainly that rings true. But isn't there something of that in all of us, when we absorb the information and images people like Don McCullin present to us on a near-daily basis? The fact that he has been doing the most depressing of jobs near constantly since 1959 speaks volumes.





By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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