At a point several years ago when James Cameron was eyeing a civilian tagalong aboard a Russian space flight, his message to prospective backers came down to one key selling point. “Astronauts are remarkable people and good at their jobs,’’ Cameron was quoted as saying. “But unfortunately their job description does not include the poetry and passion necessary to convey to the earthbound what it means to live and work in space.’’ A new reissue of the documentary “For All Mankind’’ (1989), timed to mark the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11’s touchdown on the moon, both validates and contradicts that argument. The film was assembled by journalist-turned-filmmaker Al Reinert (“Apollo 13’’) from footage that was sitting largely ignored in NASA’s vaults, overlooked by staffers who ultimately had science, not photography, on the brain. “It was only accidentally that they got these beautiful images,’’ Reinert notes in a half-hour retrospective. Reinert lets the Apollo astronauts themselves relate the action, both through interview audio and original transmissions. Hearing one astronaut marvel that the sight of Earth from space is “out of this world’’ inadvertently makes Cameron’s case about articulating the experience. But Apollo 17’s Gene Cernan, the last man to set foot on the moon, makes clear that the astronauts understood they “just had to steal time now and then. [Bringing] back some kind of thought and feeling was as important as bringing another chunk of rock back.’’ (Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95).
The First Moon Landing Video