Untitled Al Gore Documentary (2000) dir. Spike Jonze
In case you’re like me and easily turned off by this kind of thing, this is not a political documentary in really any sense other than it was made about a very relevant candidate arguably in the prime of his career (or, at the least, prior to the nadir of his political career). A similar film, I suspect, could be made about members of your own family plus or minus a couple security checkpoints.
Has it really been over seventeen years since hanging chads were a daily topic? The Gore family is deciding which VHS tape to watch! Shall We Dance is a highly recommended movie alongside The Straight Story!
This film was shown only once at the Democratic National Convention, It resurfaced for public consumption five years later in the inaugural issue of the short film quarterly Wholphin. At the time, Wholphin co-creator Dave Eggers suggested its dissemination in 2000 could have swayed the election in Gore’s favor, as it showed a softer, more humorous side to a man who had in the public eye become a wooden caricature.*
The suggestion that this short could have altered world events speaks both to the closeness of that year’s presidential election and to the novelty of the film’s candidness. Jonze, shooting literally from the hip at times, doesn’t present his subject as anything more than the father figure in a series of home movies. That the vice president of the United States might take a dip in the ocean, might have a rec room with framed family memories – these things boggled the early millennium mind which had only perceived the vice president as a somewhat austere man in a suit, doing his job and ceasing to exist outside the view of the nightly news.
“Quaint” hardly scratches at the film’s ignorance of the future. The political future, of course, in the infamous 2000 election and (*sigh*) beyond. And also the personal future for Gore, who would later separate from the wife he dotes over here. The film also presages the coming of YouTube (founded 2005) and shaky cellphone videos churning out unguarded moments on a daily basis. And most of all it can’t see the push and pull on the future public that desires to see that kind of humanization of its leaders and yet needs to keep them at a distance. To let the office simplify the details of their human sides, sometimes to the point of caricature.
- A cameo on Futurama, of course, also suggested this “human” side, but in yet another unbelievable aspect of the past, probably more people saw this doc than watched Futurama at the time.