Television thrives on the neurotic lunacy of hoarders, but rarely do we experience the passion and purpose of a methodical collector, who really made a difference. Matt Wolf’s masterful documentary, Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project takes us into the visionary psychic and cluttered physical worlds of a woman who turned her acquiring fury into a unique archive of contemporary history. Recorder had its world premiere at Tribeca Film Festival 2019 and starts its national theatrical release November 15, 2019.
Helen Highly Feels Compelled to Comment: Takes one to know one! Ron Simon is Senior Curator for Television for Paley Center for Media, and as a devoted archivist and historian (and possible obsessive hoarder), he surely sees a kindred spirit in Marion Stokes. His ability to understand the extraordinary historical significance of what Marion created speaks to his expert insight. His admiration of her speaks perhaps to something else, more personal. I find it interesting and odd that Ron sees a romantic love story behind the film’s pained narration by Marion’s long-suffering son Michael and her husband John’s reported fear of Marion learning of any interaction he had with his deserted daughter from a previous marriage.
It’s Spring in New York and that means one thing to cinephiles: Tribeca Film Festival. I will offer a select list of films that fall into a category defined by my own tangled and perhaps questionable perspective: Archival Movies. This seems to be an unofficial theme this year – films that begin and end with images of VCR tapes or microfilm, drawers full of old photographs or scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, etc. Archival materials are typical components of well-researched documentaries (and TFF is always wonderfully rich with documentaries), but this year the focus seems to be as much about the archival material itself as it is the subject of that material.