If you can find a way to see it, watch HBO’s The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst before any more events overtake it. It’s also genuinely the more amazing the less you read about it beforehand - which makes it a natural subject for a blogpost, obviously.
Skirting around most of the spoilers, it’s the story of Robert Durst, the son of a Manhattan property magnate Seymour Durst, accused of several heinous crimes, deriving from a rare interview he grants to Andrew Jarecki, director of Capturing the Friedmans among other things. Durst has clearly been a bit of an obsession for Jarekci and his team, having worked on the story for a long time, including creating a fictitious telling of his tale, All Good Things, which is what reels in Durst for the interview in the first place. And things go downhill, or distinctly uphill from thereon in, depending upon whether you’re a wealthy septuagenarian or a tenacious documentarian…
‘Plot’ aside, there’s still not a lot to say about it, partly because it is so complete as a story. There are maybe some slightly affected sections on the part of the filmmakers looking to ramp up the drama, and bending to their format (the opening titles scream True Detective), but these are so faintly distracting because of the juggernaut of a tale steaming on through everything. All the great characters, themes and set-pieces keep tumbling out fully-formed.
It is a curiousity in being a six-part documentary focused so very tightly on one subject. The story falls into natural breaks, but you can sense the tension on the part of the filmmakers that makes you wonder whether they begun with the intention to make a feature but found a subject exploding way beyond two hours’ worth of material. There is maybe some padding, especially towards the end, but a merciful lack of recapping, summarising and retreading.
So the six parts certainly feel pragmatic, but the short-form/long-arc documentary is something I would love to see more often. The focus of telling a great true story in forty minutes, without simply repeating yourself, and knowing you have another two-hundred minutes coming down the line, is an impressive challenge.