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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


Smash His Camera
Directed by Leon Gast
Magnolia Pictures 07/10 DVD/VHS Documentary
PG-13 - brief language, nudity

Ron Galella has been called "Paparazzo extraordinaire" by Newsweek. During the course of his long and controversial career, he has been taken to court by Jackie Onassis, slugged by Marlon Brando and/or members of his security team, and viewed as a menace by countless celebrities. He has been called a "parasite" and a "bottom feeder" by those who feel he is nothing more than a money-grubbing pest. And at 79, Galella is still dashing around the streets of Manhattan photographing famous people, crashing private parties, and developing pictures in his private darkroom. But add to this portrait that his photographs have been exhibited at museums and galleries throughout the world and his book Disco Years was honored as the Best Photography Book of 2006 by the New York Times.

Smash His Camera is a lively and snappy documentary directed by Leon Gast (When We Were Kings) who hopes that this film will be seen as "a portrait of the man — warts, wings, and all." He realizes that intention by covering Galella's career and its focus on freedom of the press, the right to privacy, celebrity worship, and the complex relationship between celebrities and those who chart their escapades and daily life. The energetic photographer shares stories and memories of his encounters with Frank Sinatra, Brigitte Bardot, Robert Redford, Elizabeth Taylor, and other stars who have come under his gaze. Nothing can match Galella's obsession with Jackie Onassis which ran from 1967 to her death in 1994. His most famous shot of her is "Windblown Jackie" taken in 1974 which the photographer calls his own special "Mona Lisa."

Toward the end of Smash His Camera, we see a teenage girl glance at Galella's photographs in a gallery. She doesn't recognize Henry Kissinger, Steve McQueen, and others. This is the director's way of indicating that this paparazzo's major legacy may be giving us a memorable glimpse of American royalty — the superstars and celebrities who light up our lives with their radiance, beauty, charisma, and power.

Special features include closed captioning; deleted scenes; Ron's Photo Gallery; and commentary with Rob and Director


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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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