Bill Jersey

In one of the few times that Corrina Belz’s documentary Gerhard Richter Painting breaks its present-tense, fly-on-the-wall approach to its titular subject, an archival black-and-white interview of a much younger Richter is shown. In the interview, Richter states, “To talk about painting is not only difficult but perhaps pointless, too. You can only express in words what words are capable of expressing, what language can communicate. Painting has nothing to do with that.” Belz’s film seeks to meet the artist on his own terms, providing neither a complete, contextualized biography nor a day-in-the-life diary of her subject. Gerhard Richter Painting is as elegantly simple and straightforward as its title suggests: instead of chronicling the artist’s history or delving into his personal life, the film seeks to capture the process by which the most obvious subject that defines the artist’s life is made manifest, his art. Belz’s minimalist approach to her subject is refreshing. In the movie, we are not given a “definitive” non-fiction account of Richter, but Belz attempts instead to let the subject define himself, both in the traditional fashion of verbal address (though this takes the form of impromptu confessionals during work breaks, and doesn’t revert to turning Richter into a “talking head”) and in capturing Richter hard at work constructing his paintings in an incremental fashion.

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Modern American design and its history have become major preoccupations within contemporary cosmopolitan circles. Gary Hustwit recently finished his third documentary on the subject, Mad Men makes us nostalgically long for clean copy and clear utility, and the death of Steve Jobs brought forth considerations of the important connections between user-friendliness, sleek aesthetics, and the construction of products around human intuition. Making the case that we have still yet to exhaust what continually proves to be a fascinating and increasingly relevant subject, Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey’s historical documentary Eames: The Architect and The Painter traverses the fascinating life of a couple whose contributions broadly determined what modern postwar American life looked and felt like. As narrator James Franco romantically points towards the beginning of the film, Charles Eames was an architect who never got his license, and Ray Eames was a painter who rarely painted. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of their influential lives was that they rarely operated within the confinements of either of these titles. They couldn’t be pigeonholed as architects, marketers, filmmakers, etc,. And as such, their work reflected an impending new world of convergence where art, commerce, and visual culture all became deeply related during the second half of the twentieth century. The many lives they influenced can be evidenced by the occupational variety of well-regarded professional people who lend their sound bites to the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Eames including filmmaker Paul Schrader, TED founder Richard Saul Wurman, and architect Kevin Roche.

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