by Alex Jackson Leon Gast's Smash His Camera isn't much more than bubble gum: it's kind of sweet for a while and gives you something to chew on, but it has no nutritional value. A hagiography of paparazzo Ron Galella, the film is so deliriously meta in conception that it feels like some kind of joke at our expense. We're told by one of Galella's critics that his photographs are interesting simply because he photographs interesting people--we look at them for the subject, not for the artistry. That's all quite true, and perhaps even so obvious it could have gone without saying. But what does this mean when the subject of the Galella treatment is Galella himself? Gast is starfucking a starfucker. The film's saying that if you love celebrities enough, you will become a celebrity yourself and be subject to that same adoration. No surprise, then, that Galella was Andy Warhol's favourite photographer. I'm more alarmed by Roger Ebert's blog entry on this documentary. Ebert writes that he responds to Galella's "life force" and passion for his work and ends the entry by reminiscing about the era Galella inhabited and the stars they mutually worshipped. He drank the Kool-Aid, in other words. Ebert isn't showing the slightest shred of critical skepticism, though of course that's only part of the problem. The bigger issue is that he seems to identify with Galella and sees his particular strain of movie-love as something worth celebrating. Smash His Camera is easy to like, but I worry that liking it robs the cinema of the potential for being great art. When critics embrace a movie like Smash His Camera, they facilitate the shift from film criticism to entertainment reporting. They suggest that everything is pop and sensationalism and that nothing ever has any deeper meaning. Galella's pet subject was Jackie Onassis. He photographed her for years, even after she got a restraining order against him. Galella explains that he didn't have a girlfriend at the time and so Jackie became his girlfriend. No doubt this is an extremely revealing statement, yet Gast never follows it into darker territory. In establishing that he does very much the same thing as Galella, he's not going to paint Galella's obsessions as dysfunctional and risk indicting himself or his audience. Better to hide in a thick head of frothy inconsequence, I suppose.