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Thin Blue Line - Series 1 - Episode 2 - Fire and Terror (GB - 15)

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Pressure grows on Scotland Yard Commissioner after her failure to publicly face music Inexcusable: Sir Richard Henriques blasts the police watchdog who ruled not one Town's war with 5G: Devonshire officials 'ban' installation of new high-speed network after campaigners Britain is swamped by a week's worth of rain in just one hour as the tail end of Hurricane Lorenzo causes Non-fiction films have been overrun in recent years by visually undistinguished, fundamentally expository pseudo-films that amount to little more than illustrated magazine articles. That question has never occurred to me during an Errol Morris film, however.

The wrong side of the thin blue line - The Record

Morris thinks in pictures. And when I first saw his third feature, The Thin Blue Line, back in , it forever changed the way I looked at and thought about onscreen non-fiction. No more. As Morris has noted throughout his career, truth is a dicey concept anyway. Morris makes no pretense of objectivity—he clearly believes Adams has been railroaded, and he also points a finger at the guy who probably pulled the trigger.

There are more memorable images in this six-minute sequence than most narrative films can muster. Likewise, Morris manages to establish a sense of menace simply by positioning the light behind the actor playing the doomed cop and allowing his long, long shadow to precede him en route to death. Morris had made an earlier movie, mostly about an animal cemetery, but the subject seems to have had limited popular appeal.

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The movie really IS innovative. There is no narration, for one thing.

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  • For another, the talking heads we see aren't labeled at the bottom of the screen -- "Chester Smith, Accountant at Robbin, Cheatham, and Frisk Law Firm. It's a small thing, true, but I can't recall the device's ever having been used before. It's unobtrusive and effective. That's the sort of thing I mean when I call this film "innovative". The events are restaged and presented again and again from different points of view, the whole being carefully constructed, like a jigsaw puzzle, but a jigsaw puzzle for children, easy to comprehend.

    And it's easy to see why Morris latched on to this topic. Not only is it interesting per se, an investigation into the justice system in Texas, in which almost all the authority figures seem intent on extinguishing forfeited lives, but the actual performers we see on screen are remarkably at ease in the presence of the camera. They smile conspiratorially, practically winking at the camera. They look dramatically towards heaven and say things like, "It's crazy. Nobody gets excited. Nobody breaks down and sobs. There's innovation for you!

    The thin blue line gets a little greyer: Number of police officer aged under 26 halves in two years

    Nobody get angry and shouts at the camera. It's all very smooth. But although the performances are good, they are still performances. No one seems to admit having made a mistake.

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    Everyone enters his house justified. Randall Adams, the innocent guy who was railroaded into the slams because he was 28 years old and could therefore be given the death penalty, has been in jail long enough to know what he's about when he presents his case. He has a practiced, wounded appearance and manner, although he describes his experiences as if they happened to somebody else.

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    You pick up things in jail, along with the tattoos. David Harris, the actual perp, smiles and shrugs disarmingly, and he keeps saying "I guess" and "whatever. He is, in fact, a textbook-perfect example of what used to be called a psychopath. He's pleasant looking, charming, and utterly without any conscience. In some ways the most interesting character is the spaced-out blonde who claims to have eyewitnessed the killing and identifies Adams as the murderer in court. She's the most interesting because her motives are the most obscure.

    Everyone else's goals are clear. Adams wants to save his neck. The prosecutor wants another conviction. But this babe is really something. She's constructed an old TV detective program with herself as the central figure. Two additional points. One is that the psychiatrist known as "Doctor Death" spent only 15 minutes with Adams in prison before testifying that Adams was an incurable murderer. I'm laughing as I write this. Anyway, Dr. Death gave Adams two tests. The first, which Adams describes as a lot of circles and squiggly lines, is the Bender Gestalt Test which was originally designed to measure brain damage.

    In the second part of the examination, Adams is asked to explain the meaning of a couple of adages. It used to be thought that schizophrenics were given to "concrete thinking" and that they had trouble reasoning abstractly enough to interpret these old sayings. It's not used anymore. One thing always bothered me about it anyway. The second point is that Adams was given a new trial and released after this film was shown.

    In other words, Errol Morris saved Randall Adam's life, which would otherwise have been spent in prison. So what does Adams do after he's out of prison? He sues Errol Morris for having taken advantage of him! In TV interviews explaining his suit, Adams uses exactly the same bewildered expressions and gestures of helplessness that he does in this film. At least those eleven years weren't a complete waste of time because he obviously learned something, or whatever.

    Falling Off the Thin Blue Line: A Badge, a Syringe, and a Struggle with Steroid Addiction.

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