This is the thirteenth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2023-24", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 9th annual challenge, and my fifth time participating (previous years can be found at "2019-20", "2020-21", "2021-22", and "2022-23"). Week 13 is called "Breaking News Week":
The organizations of people who have wielded the power to decide what information should be disseminated to the mass public has had profound effects on societies throughout history for both good and evil. How events and people are depicted can influence and shape a whole generation, especially as global means of mass-communication, from the television to the Internet, has extended the news’ reach to more and more people. Even if you don’t watch or read the news yourself, you can’t escape the role it plays in shaping politics and the people in your communities, or in just hearing people discuss the latest headlines around you.
This week we honor, fear, and/or respect the power journalism has had on us by watching a movie about journalism. Here is a list to get you started.
Christine is about a reporter, but it's not really about journalism. Christine the reporter has serious personal problems, which exhibit in her work life and all other aspects of her life. She has opinions about what journalism should be about, and the film shows us life in the news department at a small-market television station, but what director Antonio Campos and writer Craig Shilowich are pushing here is the story of Christine the person, more than just using Christine to examine television news.
Thanks largely to Rebecca Hall's performance in the title role, Christine is an intense and realistic look at the life of someone struggling with life. Hall has had a fascinating career. She was acting on a TV series when she was 10. She began her stage career working with her father, Peter Hall. On film she has worked with everyone from Christopher Nolan to Woody Allen to Ron Howard. In 2021 alone, she starred in Godzilla vs. Kong and made her directorial debut with Passing. She has a unique screen presence, and she fits well in the part of Christine, so well it's almost scary.
[Spoiler alert] There is another important issue I haven't mentioned yet. Christine is bsaed on a true story ... there really was a Christine Chubbuck who worked as a television news reporter in Florida in the early 1970s. If you don't know her story coming to the film ... well, I can't speak to that because I knew how the story ended. And while Campos and Shilowich and Hall are very sympathetic to what Chubbuck was going through, knowing what is coming affects how the film plays. Because Christine Chubbuck was the first person to commit suicide on a live television broadcast. And knowing that, you can't help but think throughout the movie that it's all leading up to that suicide. It's not exactly exploitative, but we want the release that is coming, terrible as it is, like knowing in a movie about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake that the quake is going to be the big scene. But the suicide of a real person is not the same as a depiction of a real earthquake. Christine leaves an unsettling residue that isn't solely because we feel for the tortured life of the main character. It's that we know if Chubbuck hadn't gone out in such a public, even historic way, there would be no movie about her. The suicide becomes the rationale for the film.