A. O. Scott’s article on the Abraham Zapruder film of JFK’s assassination captures something of the 50-year transition from the first cinéma vérité president (Kennedy) to a world in which everyone is their own cinéma vérité celebrity — stars and legends in our own minds.
The Zapruder film in a sense predates all that — it comes just before the era of seamless televisual (ir)reality (which Scott describes well) and puts a boundary around it. Somewhere buried in it is the firstness of that primal trauma: the shot (and the secondness of Kennedy’s death).
Yet its many afterlives become part of that (ir)reality, in which proliferating meanings are woven into the phantasmagoric televisual texture of we-no-longer-know-what.
“The Zapruder film remains powerful partly because it seems to dwell in a zone of ambiguity that has become, over the years, a more and more familiar place. We accept it as true, without knowing what it means.”