Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
The immediate impulse is to review this movie on the basis of its human poignancy: It's about skilled Australian newsreel photographers, masters of their craft, who are thrown out of work or made to look like fools because the advent of television has made their jobs obsolete. I could describe the dimensions of their loss, and that would make a review that we could all nod solemnly about with a quiet sigh.
And yet, the fact is, I'm typing this review on a computer, and when I'm finished with the review it will be handled by a copy editor and then electronically set into type through a photographic process. I'm writing the review on the fourth floor of our building. The third floor used to be filled with lino-type operators and other craftsmen of the hot-type print trades, and there was a roar of machines and a smell of warm lead when you went down there, but now it's a very quiet floor.
So if I were to bemoan the fates of cameramen thrown out of work by sudden changes in technology, I'd essentially be telling a technological lie. I like typing my own stories into print. And I know intellectually that newspapers and TV are a more efficient means of communicating the news than waiting around for a week for newsreels to arrive at movie theaters.
And so, if I wrote of the displacement of newsreel cameramen—in Australia or anywhere else—I'd be asking your sympathy for people suffering the same plight as horse-drawn trolley drivers, vaudeville performers, or door-to-door magazine salesmen. Some jobs are simply no longer economically feasible trades.