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Turan Off the Mark

September 16, 2000

Much as I am amused by "This Is Spinal Tap," I'm almost equally amused by Kenneth Turan's assertion that the film "pioneered the concept of mockumentary" (" 'Spinal Tap' Has Lost None of Its Satiric Edge," Sept. 8).

The moc-doc genre dates back at least as far as Woody Allen's 1969 film "Take the Money and Run," which recounted the criminal career of Virgil Starkwell (Allen) in documentary form. Allen's more (seemingly) realistic "Zelig" also predates "Spinal Tap."

In 1978, Eric Idle's "The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash" used the format to hilariously record the rise and fall of the fictional pre-fab four. There are doubtless many other examples (the use of the form for non-comic effect can be traced back at least to the "News on the March" newsreel in "Citizen Kane").

"Spinal Tap" may very well be a milestone of cinema comedy; it simply isn't a cornerstone.

SCOTT K. RATNER

Garden Grove

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First it was Stanley Kubrick who got hit with this non-criticism, that he and his films were "cold." Now it's Neil LaBute, according to Kenneth Turan, who has an "ice-cold sensibility," who put his "frigid fingers" all over "Nurse Betty" ("Nurse, Check for a Heartbeat," Sept. 8).

Where is it written that all films or plays or novels have to be "warm" to be of any worth? Were the works of Samuel Beckett or William Faulkner, two Nobel Prize winners, "warm"? Or T.S. Eliot or August Strindberg or Henrik Ibsen or Ingmar Bergman or Fritz Lang "warm"? Why do filmmakers have to necessarily be "warm" to please all the Turans out there?

TIM METCALFE

Los Angeles

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