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New Adam Curtis documentary - Bitter Lake. ALSO new Adam Curtis doc 2020


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What he says there about simplistic narratives divorced from reality that fill in for a genuine understating of the issue in question - well, gosh, that's everywhere nowadays. It's particularly obvious in foreign policy.

He's very perceptive. That's an astute piece of writing.

The map is not the territory. People would do well to remember that.

This will be fascinating. Afghan policy has been disastrous.

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I love some of his documentaries, especially the episode "The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts" from All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace. I kept up with Curtis' blog for a while and that made me lose interest in him for a bit. His style has become a bit rigid, he almost never mentions sources and I begin to notice more how simplistic or just plain wrong some of his thinking is The style of someone who can say whatever is on his mind, and even though he's very smart... he could use a bit more discipline.

This documentary looks like a shake-up in style though (the trailer is pretty stunning) and his message (how we tend to simplify the world and that this conflict with reality can have horrible consequences) remains important and thought provoking. I nowadays take everything he says with a big grain of salt, but that doesn't mean he isn't still worth listening to.

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I will watch it and I will probably find it worthwhile but I do think some of his ideas are also too simplistic. His ongoing central narrative that people were smarter, politicians more moral and that the world was a simple place and then we all changed, money took over and the world became chaotic seems to be a false starting point.

The world has always been complicated, money and power have always gone hand in hand and smart people have always done stupid things.

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Great news. All his blog posts on Afghanistan have been excellent, so I've been hoping for awhile that he had a documentary in the works on it. All Watched Over was weak by his standards, but this will be better in virtue of having a more historically specific, less abstract subject.

The one shame is that it's not on BBC2 to draw in a wider, unsuspecting audience.

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  • 1 month later...

What he says there about simplistic narratives divorced from reality that fill in for a genuine understating of the issue in question - well, gosh, that's everywhere nowadays. It's particularly obvious in foreign policy.

When has that ever not been the case though?

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I don't necessarily agree with everything he says, either in his films or blog posts, but he presents it in such a wonderful way that I have a hard time giving him grief over it. If he diagnosed me with a terminal illness via a montage of archival super 8 footage and static text set to some life-affirming minimalist electronica, I probably wouldn't be all that bothered

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I'm half way through now. It's good, but it is all a bit...

AC: At the same time in the UK, a duo of radio DJs were about to release a record that would have surprising and terrible consequences for the people of Afghanistan.

Slow motion footage of Pat & Mick in Hawaiian shirts dancing with a coconut, over which ominous, heavily distorted electronic music plays. The footage is interspersed with an afghan boy dressed as a cowboy riding a tricycle around a bullethole pocked courtyard. A few bars of The Laughing Gnome by David Bowie are vaguely discernible before disappearing into the crackle of the mix.

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Way too many random unexplained sequences for me. I'm sure they made perfect connections in his head, but it could have done with an explanation to it's relevance. I did learn a hell of a lot from the documentary though, especially the early stuff.

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Half an hour into Bitter Lake and I don't think I can be arsed with another 90 mins. It's just all over the place, and feels more than a little self-indulgent.

Anyone fancy doing a tldr paragraph of his points? He seems to be heading, at a glacial pace, towards such insightful gems as: The world's superpowers have fucked up Afghanistan for the last 60 years, in its thirst for oil the US promulgated the rise of Wahhabism and radical Islam, and salty soil suits poppies.

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Adam Curtis’ documentaries are gibberish. They’re like 9/11 trutherism for people who read Ben Goldacre books and watch BBC4 – a conspiracy theory shorn of the superficial, lurid, craziness and repackaged as Loose Change for people who listen to ‘This American Life’.

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I watched this on Sunday night and thought it was brilliant.

I don't agree with 100% of his analysis, but it doesn't really matter. It's an interesting watch, the footage is incredible and the technique to put it all together into something you can immerse yourself in for over two hours is exceptional.

I loved the contrasts between the past and present. The use of Carry on up the khyber. The horrifying scenes with the girl and her father (with the flower), the attack on the motorcade and the chaos surrounding it. Amazing.

It's also quite nice sometime to just indulge in the obvious. Like thinking "what the fuck were we doing there?".

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Taking Curtis' arguments and picking holes in them is a bit like pointing out that the stuff that magicians do isn't real. It's entertainment - and some people derive entertainment form being presenting with a point and view they hadn't considered before and thinking about it for a while. If it's done in a stylish way with a decent soundtrack, then all the better.

For those that want to find out 'what really happened', there are plenty of dry academic texts out there. However, the only ones that haven't been criticised are the ones that are so dry that they're of almost no value.

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I thought Curtis's response in one of the papers to some of his criticisms was effective. He said that politicians spin stories all the time, he was merely presenting an alternative story. He's not aiming to be "right". The world is better for multiple views getting an airing.

The point that really hit home for me was obvious, but no less interesting for it. Great powers think they are going into Afghanistan to change it, but in reality Afghanistan is a mirror on those powers, and as big an impact on them. How hollow is our politics at the moment? How compromised with conflicts of interest?

The long unedited sequences are also interesting. We tend to see the world in tightly edited bits, whether in long or short form. And that can be used to tell something true. But the long unedited sequences, often without translation or commentary, show another aspect, something we don't always see. It was fascinating and in many cases disturbing.

So he does a few great things. He shows you some stuff in a way you've not seen before. He shows you connection you may have missed. He makes an argument about how the world is. He packages it up in a stylish way. And he leaves you to make your own sense of it. I can see if what you want is something akin to a political history you'd dislike it. But it's not what he's trying to do.

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Just like It Felt Like a Kiss, you could distil the narrative down to a paragraph, but if ever 'more than the sum...' was apt. I don't see how the reality of Afghanistan it conjures is any more outlandish or simplistic than that constructed by the thousands of news reports we've had on our screens in the last 15 years. It's merely that Curtis' methods are more overt, making that very fact of construction more apparent.

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Saw this last night, it was pretty terrible. Adam Curtis really has completely disappeared up his own bottom. It literally could have been a quarter of the length and missed no important information, but we would have been denied ten minutes of a soldier looking at a bird. And what actual content there was was extremely lacking - Century of the Self and the Power of Nightmares are masterpieces and were eye-opening exposes of the philosophies behind global events. But nothing shown in this documentary should be a surprise to anyone who has paid even the slightest attention to current events.

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I didn't really know about the original deals the US did with Saudi 100 years ago managing to spread Wahabbism far and wide. I knew the US armed them during the cold war to take out the Russians during the cold war, and I thought the finale was fairly rushed. The film was more about the history leading up to Iraq War 1 than the events after though so I can forgive him.

It's certainly his weakest documentary. The Power of Nightmare is still his best for me.

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I thought this was superb, I found it genuinely unsettling to watch in places and thought the news footage interspersed with the narrative elements in a rough cut 'movie rushes' style worked really well.

Coming to it with little knowledge of the history he covered I found the whole prog fascinating.

Maybe it was 20m or so too long but I loved it. Shame the BBC are hiding it on iplayer

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  • Don Rosco changed the title to New Adam Curtis documentary - Bitter Lake. ALSO new Adam Curtis doc 2020

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