‘Smash His Camera’ and Leon Gast at Stranger Than Fiction on 6 March

“Why are you doing a piece on Ron Galella?” asks Chuck Close It’s true that, on one level, Leon Gast’s excellent documentary takes paparazzo Ron Galella as its subject. But on so many other levels, it uses him as a way to ask more resonant questions — about celebrity and class, obsession and delusion, the blurred definitions of public and private. In the film, which screens 6 March at Stranger Than Fiction, followed by a Q&A with Leon Gast, Galella tells stories about himself. He’s providing a service, he’s making a living, he’s doing what he loves to do, he says. Galella himself may be most famous for the legal case brought against him by Jackie Kennedy: she argued that he harassed her children and she won. “Why did I have the obsession with Jackie?” Galella asks himself, for Gast’s camera. “I analyzed it: because I had no girlfriend and she was my girlfriend in a way.” As an analysis, this seems glib, but it may be perversely telling as well. But if you understand all such explanations as still more stories — about Gallela maybe, but more plausibly about the culture that produces him — then you might imagine he’s been told this story and now tells it back.

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RATING 8 / 10