Another old update. Here are some reviews of two artsy related movies I attended at the Tribeca Film Festival. Hopefully they get distribution and they come to a town near you soon! Definitely worth checking out:
My first screening last night was The Universe of Keith Harring, a documentary about Harring's life and art. I've never been a huge fan of his work, and yet, it's hard to truly dislike his efforts. And, because I do appreciate what he did, I was highly disappointed that this wasn't a better film. It had the usual complaints that I have about bad documentaries--it jumped around the time frame too much (a clip from '88 and then bounce back to '83?) and there was not a straight and clear narrative. Plus, the filmmaker used this weird graphic element every time she introduced a new interview subject that got incredibly annoying after a while. On top of these things, the movie felt too long and I think I would've enjoyed it if it had been cleaned up a smidge and was a bit snappier. Also, I really wish they had covered more about how Harring developed his easily-recognizable style.
Besides all that, I really enjoyed seeing all the footage of Harring. There were plenty of clips of him painting -- whether working in the studio, guerrilla style chalking on a subway platform, or painting a large commissioned mural on the side of a building. Plus, there were many of the video pieces he did for art school (he attended SVA) and clips of shows he and his friends used to put on. One of the most interesting elements, though, was that Harring himself narrated much of the movie. He had been interviewed shortly before his death in order for someone to write a biography and the filmmaker obtained permission to use these videos in the film.
In general, Harring really seemed like a joyous person. He wanted to make people happy and created art that anyone and everyone could enjoy whether you were a child or an adult. Plus, I really appreciate the fact that despite pleads from art dealers and galleries to not paint so much (in order to drive up prices), Harring continued to paint and paint and PAINT. Paintings on canvas, murals, and he quite often drew on people's clothing or bodies. He definitely seemed to be in it for his true passion for creating and that is really magical.
Side note: Yoko Ono is adorable (I've always liked her art) and had some lovely things to say (even if they were "weird") and I thought it was a shame that some folks in the audience felt the need to snicker or giggle at them.
Afterward, I headed to a different theater to catch another documentary titled, Guest of Cindy Sherman. This was a much more fun film and the filmmaker, Paul H-O, was quite a character. The film started in the early '90s when Paul was working on a cable access TV show called Art Beat. He and his co-host would attend gallery openings in a very guerrilla style with their video cameras and ask the artists silly questions such as "What did you have for breakfast?" The show looks like it was a lot of fun. Eventually, they were at an opening for Cindy Sherman. Sherman is notorious for being a very private individual and she rarely gives interviews and it's rare you see a photograph of her that isn't one of her own self-portraits in costume. Paul headed over to her and, in rare form, Cindy actually allowed him to film her and talk to her and ask her questions. Many folks scratched their heads. This led to a series of private interview sessions where she allowed Paul to film her studio and workspace and he even filmed her during one of her photography sessions. Seeing her make herself up (she does all her own make-up and costumes) and do her own portrait was easily the gold of this film. It was really fascinating to watch her work.
Long story short, the reason she allowed Paul to film her eventually came out--it was obvious in all the tapes that these two were flirting. What followed was a 5 year relationship. The movie then continued to follow their life together and Cindy's various successes over the years whereas Paul stopped making Art Beat and failed at another project he tried to get together. He was finding himself more and more to just be Cindy's professional boyfriend. And, his personality was not the kind who would be happy to be second fiddle. This led to interesting interviews with folks such as Elton John's husband, who often found himself in the same boat. They'd be seated at different tables then their significant other at functions and pushed out of photograph opportunities. A lot of this led to the eventual downfall of the relationship. This also led to the title of the film, "Guest of Cindy Sherman," which was the place card Paul often faced at a table well-distanced from his girlfriend's. He no longer even had a name.
Overall, the magic of this movie really is getting to see a great deal of Cindy Sherman's work projected on the screen and the rare moments of a glimpse into her work and life. She is a surprisingly down-to-earth person. But, Paul's side-story is also fun and interesting. And, on top of the surface story, there is a great underlying story of how much the art world of NYC has changed in the past 15 years. When they were filming Art Beat in the early 90s, it was fun and arty and still had a lot of the 80s zaniness lingering, but it has since then turned into Big Business and it's very corporate and it's all about making money. Which is just really sad.
Cindy Sherman actually gave her approval to the final cut of the film, but has since distanced herself from it.