BluRay/DVD Reviews

KOBE DOIN’ WORK

By • Dec 15th, 2009 •

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I remember showing parts of Leni Riefenstahl’s TRIUMPH OF THE WILL – her bogus doc about Hitler, in my screenwriting class at NYU’s Graduate Film School many years ago, when Spike Lee was one of my students, sitting up front, always attentive, absorbing every bit of useful info he could from my lectures and screenings.

Now, all these years later, he’s trying a Leni move by having copious cameras capturing every molecule of action in a Los Angeles Lakers’ game, only now it’s the warm, sympathetic Kobe Bryant, basketball’s current superstar, rather than the malignant image of a raging racist dictator, we get to watch. The back cover of the DVD claims 30 cameras were used. However only fifteen camera operators are listed in the end credits, Lee among them, which I guess explains why I never caught sight of him on the sidelines.

For the first half, the final product fails to catch Riefenstahl’s fire. Kobe is miked for our listening pleasure, plus he overdubs a commentary track much later, but neither track is particularly articulate or enlightening for quite a while. And for all the lenses beaming down upon the court, the game seems a bit mundane, with Kobe not doing a lot of scoring, and the plethora of cameras not giving us that special sense of access we’ve never had before.

However, in the second half, things heat up. Bryant’s framing becomes more frenetic and creative, his commentary, more fulfilling. I’m not a basketball fan, but in the last half hour of the film, I found myself drawn in. Bryant displays warmth toward his players, and toward the other team members as well. There’s a playful, tactile thing going on between them all. And he admits he still feels like he’s a kid, playing in his driveway, so it’s important the game be fun for him, as well as being the ‘work’ of the title.

If you’re a basketball maven, this disc’s for you. If you want insights into the game, it will also serve you well. As a resource material, it should be available in libraries around the country.. And as a documentary for your shelves, well…that depends entirely on you.

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