Responsible Documentary

The unanswerable question is “Why?” Why did Florida talk show hostess Christine Chubbock shoot herself live on TV in 1974? And if the footage was to still survive – it allegedly does – why would anyone wish to watch it? That’s the focus of Robert Greene’s film-within-a-film docu­mentary as actress Kate (Kate Lyn Sheil) prepares to inhabit Christine (and enact her final perfor­mance) for a movie that actually doesn’t exist.

A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, Chubbock represents the ultimate challenge for an actor seeking honesty and truth in her interpretation. She was tanned, she was dark-haired, she was glamorous. And she was professional to the last, even writing the script for her death. Kate seeks answers for her character’s behaviour. But this is suicide for public consumption – reality television that’s real yet unreal. It’s the urban legend proved genuine.

Greene avoids glorification. But it’s visceral and voyeuristic nonetheless. As for Christine Chubbock, she remains trapped in time. Yesterday’s headline. And utterly inscrutable.

Tony Earnshaw

1. Still from Robert Greene’s Kate Plays Christine. Courtesy of Dogwoof.