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Reviews for April 21st, 2010


Red Birds

Directed by Brigitte Cornand.


In English and French with subtitles. This fleetingly fascinating video essay combines footage of a variety of birds with recordings of interviews with fourteen different female artists. The artists include Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith, Genevieve Cadieux, Annette Messager, Carolee Schneemann, June Leaf, Nicola L, Pat Steir, Nancy Holt, Mary Miss, Gloria Friedmann, Joan Jonas, Gwenn Thomas and, lastly, Martha Rosler. Each of them talks about their struggles as a female artist. Itís somewhat interesting to listen to them explain how they emerged into the field of art and became so passionate about art as well as nature itself. They candidly admit that it was a lengthy process for them to find their inner voice, individuality and freedom as female artists. Instead of showing all of these artists onscreen, though, director Brigitte Cornand shows lots of footage of birds for each interview which, at first, provides the film with a sense of lyricism, but eventually, it becomes distracting, tedious and, worst of all, boring. Moreover, none of the artistís voices is identified early on, so itís hard to figure out who among the fourteen artists is speaking. Youíll have to wait until the end of the film to see the images of birds match up with each respective artist, but by then itís too late. The director does have a very poetic sensibility because, in many ways, the birds represent the artistsí freedoms and joie de vivre. However, she squanders the opportunity to actually show the joie de vivre of the artists themselves because theyíre never on camera throughout the many interviews. Why not give each of them the chance to face the camera and talk while, perhaps, the birds are merely in the background? After all, this video essay is about the struggle of female artists, so to show footage birds for 99% of it is unnecessary and hits your over the head with the same metaphors again and again. At a running time of only 1 hour and 15 minutes, Red Birds manages to be tedious, confusing, excessively poetic and an ultimately squandered opportunity to clearly and engagingly illuminate the life and work of 14 brilliant, important female artists.
Number of times I checked my watch: 6
Opens at the Anthology Film Archives.





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