Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg

For Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010), filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg spent months with the comedian, filming at close range. The most eloquent sequence in the film goes beyond depicting an always-onstage, always-driven celebrity: while handing out Thanksgiving meals for God's Love We Deliver, Rivers meets Flo Fox, a photographer confined to a wheelchair (top still). After their encounter, Rivers seeks out Flo Fox's life story on the web. While watching a 1980 television clip of Fox in her better days with Tom Snyder on the Tomorrow Show (second still), Rivers says, "There's this sexy, young, artistic, edgy, New York, tough, bohemian girl. Life is so mean.'' It's a lovely and poignant moment.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Megumi Sasaki

Herb and Dorothy (2008) by Megumi Sasaki documents two collaborative hoarders who would fit right in with the Buried Alive reality series. In this case, however, the hoarders are respected art collectors with a low income and tiny New York City apartment (bottom still). Herb and Dorothy Vogel (top) spent their time and energy over the last forty years insatiably collecting minimalist and conceptual art, often directly from the artists, such as Chuck Close (second still). One work, by Lawrence Weiner, describes the Vogel's apartment (third still). Interviews, archival footage, and present-day observation tease out the uniqueness of the Vogel's collection and accomplishment.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Davis Guggenheim

Davis Guggenheim's It Might Get Loud (2008) is notable for its intimate access to its subjects, rock guitarists Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White (top still, during their elegantly lit and shot "summit" session). All three musicians come across as well-rounded, deeply thoughtful, and hugely likeable. Page, especially, steps out of his dour and uncommunicative public persona to reveal an appreciative listener who is still totally engaged in musical exploration. Above, what has to be the most charming air guitar footage ever presented: Jimmy Page channeling Link Wray's Rumble and Muddy Waters's I Can't Be Satisfied.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tamra Davis

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (2010) by Tamra Davis is an example of the power of careful editing to create an absorbing narrative out of period footage and talking heads interviews. Repetition and distracting subplots are stripped away in the service of the biography of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat's rapid ascension (and sad end) in the 1980s. Indeed, Tamra Davis renders New York City in the eighties as one of the primary characters in the story.
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Documentary Starts Here by Nancy Kalow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.