Archived Events, Film




Over the course of his long career as a documentarist, Errol Morris has built a reputation as a filmmaker with a set of interlocking obsessions. First of all, as evinced early on in his film about Steven Hawking, 1991’s A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME, he’s always loved eccentrics who combine brilliance and intensity with a certain inscrutability. Should they also prove ambivalent, defensive, and ready for intellectual combat, that’s even better, because Morris loves epistemological mysteries as well: puzzles that allow him to play with the possibilities for deception implicit in all puzzles, and to question our (and his) faith in their resolvability. (Cf. Believing is Seeing, Morris’ book about photography and its manipulations.) This lingering attention to ambiguities often collides compellingly with an impulse classically endemic to documentary filmmaking: speaking truth to power. When Morris speaks truth to power he can’t help but also speak ambiguity to truth. It’s tricky stuff, and besotted with its own trickiness.

So when Robert McNamara — LBJ’s Secretary of Defense and a chief architect of the Vietnam war — allowed himself to be interviewed for THE FOG OF WAR(2003), he seemed like an ideal foil for Morris: a sharp intellect, attached to a once powerfully intransigent personality, now buffeted between second thoughts and self-defense. And an ideal foil he was; so much so, in fact, that Morris’ brand new film, THE UNKNOWN KNOWN — in which our hero takes on another war-time Secretary of Defense, his Satanic Majesty himself, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld — sounds at first like an invitation to lightning to strike a second time in the same place. And maybe it is; but it’s also a raising of the stakes — Rumsfeld is cannier, cleverer, and less given to self-doubt than perhaps any subject with whom Morris has heretofore grappled. How will it all it come out? I couldn’t tell you, man. For now it’s, you know, a known unknown. Come out to the Coolidge this afternoon and we’ll both see what, if anything, comes to light.

4/6 – 3pm
103 minutes

Coolidge Corner
290 Harvard Street
Brookline MA 02446

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