Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"my kid could paint that" -see it!


not since capturing the friedman's have i walked out of a theatre and been so abuzz with ideas, emotions and reactions to a film.

once again, the documentary has proven to kick scripted film's ass in terms of drama and emotional investment.

as i was watching i was literally thinking on four different levels, constantly seeing things in a new light as the film progressed and another point of view was introduced. was so stirred and provoked that i wanted to talk to the screen, turn to my seatmate and break into discussion about a point that was made.

but i's the premise: a four year old girl whose dad's a low level manager at a freeto lay factory by night, amateur painter by day gives her a canvas to keep her occupied while he paints. She takes a liking to it and creates something a family friend thinks is great and wants to hang it up in his bar. people express interest in it, the family thinks it is hilarious and agree to sell it. a gallery owner (read shifty, insecure frustrated artist) sees the painting at the home of the person who bought it and wants to exhibit her work.

don't want to ruin it for you, but basically, people pick up on the story and a fascinating chain of events ensues.

among the concepts i found most interesting were: a) point of view of mom and dad. their fundamental differences in approaches to the hype become almost iconic by the end of the film. they are so pointedly representative of two social constructs that they start to seem constructed. i mean, you couldn't write it better if you tried. watching the documentarian ask the same question to the two separately effectively establishes these points of view and then, at a critical juncture of the film we finally see them together, asked a probing question at the same time. watching them react to each other on film, in the moment, was so intimate and telling that it felt painful. as an audience member you watched the penny drop in the subject's minds as it drops in yours. so powerful.

b)film as a comment on voice of women-(this one didnt even come across my radar until a scene where an older woman with poorly dyed orange hair and a pink gingham dress spent 12000 on a painting she didn't want.) as i watched, i started to notice that the women in the film all had strong instincts that drove the way that they made decisions and defined themselves. in all four cases -local journalist, mom, marla-the young painter, and the woman who reluctantly bought "ocean", the women had a clear sense of what it was that drew them to the art/story. as things became more complicated there was a moment where each overtly struggled with the course things were taking. each voiced her concerns and dis-ease in her own way. it was incredible to watch these people go from a place of assured contentment to a point where they denied their 'gut' instincts to appease the men in the film-dad, slimy art dealer, documentarian, husband of gingham dress woman...again, incredible to see it play out-materialism and pseudointellectualism on one side and integrity on the other.

c) proof of talent-this was a biggie. after having been immersed in the world of this family for a certain ( and i'm sure very thoughtfully plotted) amount of time, it was incredible as a viewer to find myself suddenly rethinking everything i'd seen based on one piece of 'evidence'. it took me by surprise and i actively fought the impulse to suddenly jump camps, shift loyalties. still, once revealed, the 'evidence' made a neutral movie going experience from that point on, impossible. it brought to mind bigger questions, of our fickle relationship with faith. of our competing desire to want to celebrate human achievement and unique self expression and our distrust of the unusual.

d)what is art? the biggest thing i took away from this aspect of the film was that it was the amateur artists themselves that made the most effective argument against the validity of the very art they make! watching these guys sell their souls for some artistic street cred was sad. no moral compass whatsoever. they were lost. made to seem all the more so in contrast to the women and their certitude.

most interesting was they way that one statement by a psychologist (not an art critic) turned the tide of public opinion in one fell swoop. to hear the opinion parroted across contexts was like watching a flu virus spread. people are so unsettled by abstract art that in order not to say the wrong thing in response to it, they cling to what an 'expert' says and claim their comment as their own, secure that, even if not popular, their stance is at least legitimate in some way.

was also great to see ridiculous way that people interviewing the four year old as a means to gage the authenticity of the true greatness of her work totally missed the point. at one point, the documentarian asked her how she knew when a painting was finished. ridiculous! she's four! when she can't give an answer she's not revealing the fact that she's not a true artist, she's being four! she's reacting the way most people do when they create something with no end goal in mind other than enjoyment. it blew my mind that her developmental age never seemed to factor into an explanation for a less than desired response to a "probing' question. we are seriously regressing on the critical thinking scale...find myself longing for real journalism, for the days of donahue...

e) documentarian as voice in film-while i am used to this technique with political pieces like sicko and supersize me,or when the subject of the film is family or is autobiographical in some sense, but hearing the reflections of the filmmaker during the film , breaking the fourth wall so to speak really added a new dimension. there's a moment where the lens that has been a source of comfort to the family being filmed becomes tainted. once the mom realizes she's been had the betrayal she feels is palpable and the guilt expressed by the documenatarian became my own, felt equally culpable for having gone along for the ride on his heels.

so, as you can see, it's pretty provocative stuff. hope haven't ruined it for you. do see it though, would love to hear what you think!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

CNN: Artwork by a pet rat sells for $3500.00