The Staircase review – still the godfather of the true crime documentary

Netflix’s doc about the death of Kathleen Peterson and her novelist husband Michael’s court case remains a sensational, game-changing series In December 2001, Kathleen Peterson, who was married to the 58-year-old novelist Michael Peterson, was found dead at the bottom of the stairs in their mansion in Durham, North Carolina. Peterson said his wife had fallen, but he was tried for murder. Those bare facts are intriguing, but they are just a tiny part of why The Staircase is a crime documentary to rival any of the genre’s biggest hits. Netflix’s 13-parter comprises eight episodes released in 2004, another two that debuted in 2013 – up to this point, it has all been shown before on BBC4 – and three new instalments, shot last year. Taken in one hit, it is what Netflix justifiably calls a titanic piece of work that confirms the French director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade as the godfather of the modern longform documentary. You can see why the producers of Making a Murderer sought advice from De Lestrade when they began editing their show: The Staircase demonstrates how to ride the wave of a sensational true story, zooming in on fine details before pulling back to unleash game-changing revelations at the steady rate of one stunner per episode. Continue reading...

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