Reading some of the posts on this blog, I can’t help but think that there is some over-analysis of a documentary that is as uncomplicated as its title: Puppet.
This is a documentary about puppetry. It seems that the documentaries mentioned to compare to Puppet are apples to oranges. The word, “puppet” is a ridiculous word (a thought I had so many times while watching this movie) comes from the French word for “doll” not the French word for puppet, which is “marionette.”
So if I had to compare this documentary to another it would be Marwencol (available on Watch Instantly on Netflix). That film is a biopic of a man who photographs dolls. The dolls, at times, do seem silly but the art created from it seems so real, so moving. The underlying theme is that we’re seeing something that we normally think of as puerile, adding life to it, and making it into an art. The story in that documentary is this man’s incredible art born out of rehabilitation.
We’re not told the history of dolls or photography of dolls because we don’t need it. Adding some of the interesting history from experts to Puppet was absolutely necessary to me because I was like Soll whose “initial reference point was the Muppets and Sesame Street,” (and Topo Gigio).
Another question that was asked is: How does the form fit the content?
Suggesting that all documentaries cannot essay is a harsh blanket statement. While there are more documentaries being produced using conventional methods, that doesn’t mean some of them can’t essay. It suggests to me that because something is informative, that is, presenting us with just facts, that information presented to us in a certain way can’t change the way we think or the way we feel (which is kind of what I saw in Reality Hunger), especially if the “facts” juxtapose ideas of how we see a marginalized art and a man who experiences it first hand.
Because Soll is like me, I can see how he was the “puppet-master” in manipulating this information. We get the expert advice we don't know about puppetry. It was all about puppetry, and not other arts. We don’t need to see other marginalized arts in the discussion of this film. This film already has a lot going on it without confusing it with more arts or experts.
Soll didn’t show us Dan Hurlin’s life outside of puppetry because the only reactions that we needed were from the performing arts realm. If we had met people in Hurlin’s life talking about their thoughts on his puppetry, we could have easily dismissed it.
Neither did we need to see Soll, the creator, any more than we already did the same way the audience of the production Disfarmer didn’t see Hurlin, the creator. We saw an interpretation of an artist who did an interpretation of an artist. Hurlin didn’t photograph Disfarmer. He used his own art as did Soll.
It’s really quite simple: Puppet essays because it changed the way I thought about puppetry. It changed the way I saw how it was performed, how it’s received, and its place in society. That, to me, is the actual triage of this film.