Get unlimited digital access to $0.99 for 4 weeks.
Entertainment Movies

A few of Matt Porterfield's favorite things

Matt Porterfield says we can credit Jean-Luc Godard's "Masculine-Feminine" (1966) for the interview structure of "Putty Hill." He also says that Martin Bell's hard-to-find "Streetwise," about Seattle street kids, exerted a huge influence on his two films about youth: "'Streetwise' is a documentary that acts like a narrative, 'Putty Hill' is a narrative that acts like a documentary.'"

But he also cited three other masterpieces, readily available on DVD, that are never far from his mind when he thinks of making fiction features with nonfiction techniques.

•Kent McKenzie's "The Exiles" (1961), about American Indians in Los Angeles, uses pungent vignettes, evocative bar music and electric interior monologues to capture how male bonding turns shared weaknesses into an illusion of strength — and to convey the end-of-the-line feelings just beneath the surface of one more round of drinks at a bar.

✭Charles Burnett's "Killer of Sheep" (1977), at its most universal, is about community — what it means to live among kith and kin. At its most particular, it's about what it meant to live in Watts before it devolved from a close-knit section of Los Angeles to the original boyz-'n'-the-hood neighborhood.

•Errol Morris' "Fast, Cheap & Out of Control" (1997). Morris finds the philosophic threads connecting a topiary gardener, a wild-animal tamer, a mole-rat specialist, and a robotics scientist. Porterfield says: "Karen Schmeer, the film's editor, was a big influence on my editor, Mark Vives; it's a documentary, but it takes a strong narrative approach as it weaves together four stories.

Michael Sragow

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Review: 'Mr. Turner'
    Review: 'Mr. Turner'

    Some films assert their rightness and sureness in the opening shot. Mike Leigh's excellent "Mr. Turner" is one of them, though Leigh and his inspired cinematographer, Dick Pope, are less concerned with conspicuous camera movement than with a charged sort of stillness. It's a beautiful film, and...

  • Review: 'Strange Magic'
    Review: 'Strange Magic'

    There are good things in the animated musical fantasy "Strange Magic": the ultra-detailed, photorealistic animation; the name-that-tune pleasures of a mashup jukebox soundtrack; fine vocal performances from the cast's actor-singers; and a transcendent sequence featuring the 1975 title song.

  • 'Wedding Ringer' is a winner

    "The Wedding Ringer" is "Wedding Crashers Redux," a "Hangover Lite" that softens manic funnyman Kevin Hart's persona into someone almost as funny, but more sentimental than abrasive. That helps "Ringer" work as a bromantic comedy that feels like a romantic comedy.

  • Review: 'American Sniper'
    Review: 'American Sniper'

    People will take what they want to take from "American Sniper," director Clint Eastwood's latest film. Already it has turned into an ideological war to be won or lost, rather than a fictionalized biopic to be debated.

  • Review: 'Paddington'
    Review: 'Paddington'

    Never judge by appearances. The poster image for "Paddington," already a hit in Britain, depicts the valiant little bear in the red hat and blue jacket careening down a flooded staircase in a bathtub, and the image (from the first of creator Michael Bond's 26 "Paddington" books) is rendered...

  • Movie review: 'Inherent Vice'
    Movie review: 'Inherent Vice'

    It takes a genuine film artist to create an alternate-reality version of a familiar place.