Rats in the Ranks | Chicago Reader

Rats in the Ranks

There's an almost eerie degree of complicity between the filmmakers and the subjects of this 1996 documentary, the councillors of Leichhardt, a municipality of Sydney, who annually elect the mayor from among their ranks. Culled from an extraordinary amount of material collected by Bob Connolly and Robin Anderson—who produced, directed, and recorded the minimally manipulated footage—the scenes are constructed with brief blackouts instead of traditional match cuts between moments that weren't chronological, and the obviousness of this device emphasizes the reality of everything you see and hear. Most striking about this portrayal of council members involved in a cutthroat but not particularly suspenseful conflict is the amount of screen time devoted to behavioral nuances usually absent from footage intended for public consumption: incumbent mayor Larry Hand (who seems to feel he can't trust anyone except, oddly, the filmmakers) doodles, makes funny noises with his mouth, scratches his bald spot—all the while clearly aware he's being filmed. In a priceless moment he's on the phone conferring with another council member when a woman enters his office to tell him something; he asks her to leave so he can continue his conversation in private—in front of the filmmakers and us.

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