My Kid Could Paint That

Banksy-in-Exit-Through-the-Gift-Shop

Documentary cinema has a lot of stories about the art world. It’s not surprising, really. Readings or lectures about art can be tedious to the average viewer, and fiction film often has trouble jazzing up the subject, but the standard model of doc filmmaking is ideal for conveying facts and concepts while keeping the audience engaged. Still, such films usually struggle to attract an audience, and it’s not hard to figure out why — art is usually seen as a stodgy field, fit only for snobs. And given how deep the ties run between fine art and the whims of the upper class, this is not an entirely unreasonable stereotype. This makes it particularly funny when someone comes along to upset the fruit cart. Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman‘s new film, Art and Craft, demonstrates what happened when museums discovered one forger who only donated and never sold his fakes. In that spirit of rabble-rousing, here are a few more that come in a similar vein. These are films that refuse to play by the art world’s rules. In one way or another (and sometimes unintentionally!), they lay bare the eccentricities and hypocrisies that fuel this sheltered sphere of rich collectors and stodgy institutions. F for Fake (1974) One of Orson Welles‘s last projects, this freewheeling cinematic essay starts as an interrogation of famed forger Elmyr de Hory‘s career before spiraling off into various explorations of the nature of art and authenticity. Welles is keeping company with a host of other “fakers,” mainly his fellow actors […]

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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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There is the belief that art can elude, confuse, and manipulate meaning just as readily as it can reveal truth and reality to us. There is the alternate belief, however, that the illusion of reality and truth manifested through art is its most deceptive function. There’s a lot to be said about this subject with respect to Banksy’s street art documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, and here are what amount to, for what its worth, my two cents.

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The Academy just announced the 15 finalist for the “Best Documentary” award this year — and I think there are a few films missing!

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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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published: 12.15.2014
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published: 12.12.2014
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