NEW YORK–Although its title sounds militaristic, “Blast ‘Em” is actually an entertaining documentary about the frenzied competition among paparazzi for celebrity photos. As funny as it is illuminating, pic should appeal to anyone interested in star worship and its consequences. It is scheduled for a two-week run at Film Forum here, but there may be enough interest to justify a longer commercial run.
Docu focuses on Victor Malafronte, a young photographer who aggressively pursues his celebrity prey. When he’s not crashing gala events, he stakes out John Kennedy Jr.’s office and Michael J. Fox’s apartment building. His triumphs include capturing Kennedy on Rollerblades and snagging the first shot of Fox with his wife and baby.
Like most celebrity photographers, Malafronte has little concern for the privacy of his subjects. “I don’t have any sympathy for a guy who makes 20 or 30 million,” he says. And, as someone else points out, “A picture of a celebrity is like hard currency.”
Other paparazzi are interviewed, too, but they are seldom identified. In one amusing segment, an Italian photographer remembers Anita Ekberg shooting him with a bow and arrow and kicking him in the groin.
By comparison, most of the celebrities seen in “Blast ‘Em” are quite tolerant of “assault photographers.” Even Sean Penn flashes a smile for Malafronte. Other familiar faces include Robert De Niro, Matt Dillon, Madonna, Marla Maples, Jack Nicholson and Sigourney Weaver.
Running backward to shoot Weaver and her husband after a party, Malafronte shows the incredible persistence needed in the ultracompetitive world of celebrity photography. In another scene, he runs through a kitchen to sneak into a photo op and then hides from publicists between shots.
Not surprisingly, the docu’s cameramen often had trouble keeping up with Malafronte. But the occasionally wavering camerawork captures the guerrillalike aspect of ambush photography.
Other technical credits are fine, though the music becomes too heavy when Malafronte fails to get a photo. Writer-director Joseph Blasioli also occasionally takes his subject too seriously.
But most of the time, “Blast ‘Em” has a suitably light, amused tone. An Italian photographer brags about capturing starlets’ exposed breasts. Sally Kirkland prepares for the Oscars as she would prepare for battle. And Malafronte waits and waits and waits for Michael J. Fox to emerge from his Central Park West home.
The director might have interviewed a few stars besides Kirkland to hear their side of the story. But he does show the absurdity of trying to satisfy Americans’ obsession with celebrity. That obsession is, after all, the reason why paparazzi exist.