THE documentary is becoming a real little sleeper within the broader DVD market. To my viewing, at least, there are more discoveries among recent DVD doco releases than in other categories.
Every feature film feels as if it has already been hyped, chastised or dismissed before reaching the DVD market. Or maybe it’s just me. One new documentary is an unwitting lesson in how hype hurts. Not the DVD itself but its subject. Inside the All Blacks was certainly much easier to watch this week after last week’s surprise Wallabies victory, but after watching this French documentary about the almost all- conquering New Zealand rugby union side, I almost feel sorry for them.
It is an extraordinary piece of filmmaking, or at least scriptwriting, that even the All Blacks may be embarrassed by. It begins at a high pitch and doesn’t relent, noting early that: ‘‘ In a country where rugby is far more than just a sport [ the All Blacks] are charged with a mission of almost mystical proportions.’’
Or they may be just a bunch of burly blokes trying to push a piece of synthetic rubber around an oval.
The media is on to the burden of expectations the New Zealanders face before the World Cup, yet they could hardly outdo this doco. In an otherwise faithful and wellconstructed piece, the narration leaps tall buildings in a single bound, lauding the All Blacks as supermen. Not only must they win the World Cup, there is ‘‘ the immense duty of maintaining the [ All Black] myth at its peak and confirming New Zealand’s place as the greatest rugby union nation of the world’’.
Most of the present team are interviewed and filmed in training and in civic life: Leon McDonald, Daniel Carter, Anton Oliver, Mils Muliaina, Aaron Mauger and coach Graham Henry.
And they give solid interviews, talking of expectations and the legacy of the former All Blacks, the ‘‘ true aristocracy of the New Zealand nation’’. Some of them also feature, including Jonah Lomu, Tane Norton, Graham Mourie, Gary Whetton, Colin Meads and 1960s legend Brian Lochore, who is introduced, without irony, ‘‘ in his natural element, surrounded by sheep on his farm’’.
Subconsciously, Inside the All Blacks says more about the burden on the team than about the team itself. It is a missed opportunity. Instead, we’re left with flowery narration such as this: ‘‘ A rugby pass is perhaps the finest sporting movement ever invented by man and surely the most loaded with meaning, passing to a mate so the collective movement can last and the dream never stops.’’ I think that means they like to throw it around a bit because it’s fun.
The doco has it all around the wrong way. The real star is the special feature, Facing the All Blacks , in which past and former players tell of the joys or otherwise of playing the New Zealanders. Welsh flanker Martyn Williams sums it up: ‘‘ It’s the benchmark for you to see how good a player you are.’’ All the former French players look as though they’ve just stepped from a Jacques Rivette film, except for Serge Blanco, who looks as though he’s just stepped from a cafe he may run in Nice. And I had to laugh at Paul Grayson’s recollection of his first match, where he faced Lomu’s haka. In true British understatement, he admits it was ‘‘ quite intimidating’’. The Ten network could do worse than buy these interviews and chop them up for their World Cup coverage.
* * * DISC WATCH: Bullitt ( Warner Bros, M, $ 29.99)). What better way to test your new Blu- ray or HD- DVD capabilities than with this, arguably the greatest car chase film? And Steve McQueen’s blue eyes should come up nicely, too. bodeym@ theaustralian. com. au