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July 12, 2010 | by  | in Film |
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Teenage Paparazzo

Film

If the director’s name hasn’t already rung bells for you, you may recognise Adrian Grenier as the lead actor in HBO’s hit series Entourage, where he plays rising Hollywood star Vincent Chase. And in the opening of his new documentary Teenage Paparazzo, he details how these two lives—his onscreen character’s life and his own—have begun to blur. Rising to fame in the same fashion as his character, he clearly knows dealing with the ups and downs of being in the spotlight, and having his everyday life documented. This unusual position makes Grenier as competent a narrator/director as any to delve into the mechanics of celebrity culture, as his television role constructs the very identity he is a victim of.

But the subject of the documentary is not himself, but precocious 13-year-old paparazzo Austin Visschedyk and the world of the paparazzi. Austin makes for a compelling case study, as he not only proves a valuable insider to the industry, but also reveals his motivations in a way only a teenager could. Grenier follows Austin as he shoots celebs in downtown LA (sometimes at 3am on a school night) and reveals the simultaneous camaraderie and competition of this intriguing underworld. Representing the celebrity’s point of view are a large ensemble of Grenier’s celeb-buddies—Paris Hilton, Eva Longoria, Matt Damon and his Entourage cast-mates. Their interviews, accompanied by some excellent footage of celebrities and paparazzi (Bruce Willis breaking a camera and dropping a cool “Fuck you” as he walks away = awesome) show the invasive dark side we all know exists. But what could have been just a surface-level “celebrities vs. paparazzi” showdown is further fleshed out by Grenier, as he brings in an analytical dimension to the relationship of fame and culture, backed with thought-provoking theories from acclaimed media scholars, and the opinions of other paparazzi and regular people.

But the focus, for the most part, remains affectionately on Austin as Grenier documents his naïve approach to his future and the effects of Austin’s own taste of fame once his exploits garner exposure from the media. While the more cynical could easily dismiss this film as a giant PR vehicle for Grenier as he reconstructs his image and buddies with Austin, Teenage Paparazzo stands alone as an insightful and well-rounded study of celebrity culture—one that stimulates thought and entertains in equal measure.

Screening as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival:

Saturday 24th July, 3.30pm—The Film Archive.
Sunday 25th July, 2.00pm—Paramount.
Tuesday 27th July, 12:00pm—Paramount.

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