Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

Ai Weiwei, Stasiland and the Persistence of the Police State

September 6, 2012

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is the story of a world-famous artist who provoked the Chinese police state and, so far, seems to be getting away with it—if you don’t count being slugged by a Sichuan policeman in 2009 and almost dying of a subdural hematoma, being arrested in 2011 and held for 81 days and, now, being forbidden to leave the country and liable for a fine of almost $2 million for alleged tax evasion. His provocation: leading an effort to document and publicize the deaths of more than 5,000 schoolchildren, buried or crushed when their poorly constructed schools collapsed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. And, on top of that, first demanding an investigation of the Sichuan police slugging and then suing. Plus photographing, filming and tweeting everything that happened to him along the way.

We see him, strong and confident, at his huge Beijing studio / residence, overseeing the production of his work, organizing the investigation of the student deaths. We see heartbreaking photographs of fields of small backpacks, dirty, torn open, their contents spilling out—all that’s left of the children who wore them to school that day. Read on

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Anselm Kiefer Digs the Dirt

August 21, 2011

Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow
A Documentary Film by Sophie Fiennes

It’s great fun to watch Anselm Kiefer work. It’s also sometimes heart-stopping, as when he patters around in flip-flops while he and assistants smash large panes of glass into piles of shards. Or when, sans goggles, mask, or gloves, he wields a powerful, long-handled blowtorch, melting lead in a cauldron while standing precariously atop the steep slope of a giant pile of dirt.

Watching him work is the best part of Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow, a documentary by Sophie Fiennes, who followed Kiefer around his vast art-making complex outside of Barjac, France, shortly before he decamped to Paris in 2008. In fact, the amount of installation-work he was doing at a point apparently close to his departure suggests a whole dimension of performance art designed to be filmed.

Kiefer moved to Barjac from Germany in 1993, and made a lot of art—at one point he casually mentions “112 lorries full” of art already trucked away, presumably to galleries, museums and private sales. But, he says in the film, he plans to leave a lot in Barjac, too—some kind of sculpture or painting in every room or house, of which there are many. Some appear to be freestanding sheds, small outbuildings with doors through which you can peer at a painting or installation. Others are bare suggestions of houses: cobbled together from pieces of cast cement in varying sizes, they are stacked one atop the other, so many mad leaning towers across the landscape.


Read on

Three Documentary Films

October 5, 2008

Patti Smith: Dream of Life

Man on Wire

Encounters at the End of the World

It’s interesting how triangulation creates perspective. I went to see these documentaries in the order listed, was disappointed by the first, enchanted by the second, and found that the third, amazing in its own right, illuminated the first two. (All three will be available on DVD this fall or winter.)

Why do we watch documentaries and docudramas? Aside from sheer voyeurism, we’re always looking for revelation, for understanding, for connection: ‘this is the way it really is; this is what it felt like to be there—or to be this person.’

Patti Smith: Dream of Life

(Directed by Steven Sebring)

What we find in Patti Smith: Dream of Life isn’t the revelation of a life, but the reenactment of rituals—a performance. The filmmaker, Steven Sebring, followed Smith around for years, apparently filming whatever she chose to present. Read more

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