Reviews for March 18th, 2009
Directed by Michel Auder and Andrew Neil.
In French and English with subtitles. This “documentary” focuses on the life of 68-year-old Michel Auder, a French video artist who had been making films ever since his teenage years. He had once collaborated with Andy Warhol in The Factory and had two ex-wives, Viva and Cindy Sherman, who bore him his one and only child, Alexandra. The film begins with a seemingly simple statement that, “This narrative is not a true account.” If it’s not a true account, does that necessarily mean that it’s completely false one? Is there no truth to be found lurking somewhere within Auder’s video recordings? Co-directors Michel Auder and Andrew Neil don’t provide easy answers to those important questions. They assemble new footage directed by Neil along with a variety of video recordings from 5,000 hours worth of archival footage belonging to Auder, which were taken at different moments from his life. After Auder’s doctor diagnosis him with brain cancer, there’s a non chronological amalgamation of new and old recordings from Auder’s life, some of which look quite shoddy with poor audio. Much of the footage lacks a coherent transition from one to the other and those unfamiliar with the life of Michel Auder will be confused as to who’s who. Viewers might feel perplexed by the lack of structure and meaning to what they’re watching because the assemblage does feel chaotic and has moments that will might make them wonder the overarching question, “So what?”. Within chaos, though, there’s order and structure to be found upon closer examination and, especially, through retrospect, just like in life itself. It doesn’t fundamentally matter whether Auder chooses to express himself through fiction or nonfiction because, ultimately, to quote Orson Welles in F for Fake, “What we professional liars hope to serve is truth. I'm afraid the pompous word for that is ‘art’”. Moreover, according to the wise words of Pablo Picasso, "Art is a lie that helps us to realize the truth." The series of seemingly pointless video recordings in The Feature, regardless of whether or not they’re fictional, have brief moments of truth, beauty and even poetry, such as when Auder likens his life to water as it fleetingly escapes one’s hands. At a lengthy running time of 3 hours and 4 minutes, The Feature feels somewhat disjointed, meandering, seemingly random and chaotic, but filled with fleeting moments of coherence, wonder and awe, much like life itself. Number of times I checked my watch: 4. Released by SeeThink Productions. Opens at the Anthology Film Archives.
Valentino: The Last Emperor
Directed by Matt Trynauer.
In Italian, French and English with subtitles. This often dull and slightly fascinating documentary focuses on the career of Valentino Garavani, an Italian fashion designer and co-owner of a clothing company that he had founded back in 1959 with his business partner and lover, Giancarlo Giametti. The company had changed owners throughout the last few years, though. Watch as Valentino meticulously prepares to display his clothing line at a fashion show during Fashion Week 2007 in Paris. Watch as he searches for the ideal model to walk down the fashion runway during the show. Watch as he chooses the colorful background designs for the stage. Each article of clothing looks extravagant, stylish, radiant and beautiful in different ways. Often he comes across as arrogant, selfish, rude and stubborn, although that doesn’t make him less of an artist. Director Matt Trynauer, who’s also the editor and writer of “Vanity Fair” magazine, in his directorial debut, fails to go beyond the surface of Valentino’s career and life. There’s not enough exploration of what makes Valentino so passionate about fashion to begin with nor is there enough background information about him for that matter. What makes Valentino so special compared to other fashion designers such as Yves Saint Laurent? By the time the film shows how he reacts to the changes of ownership of his clothing company, you still haven’t really gotten to know him in a way that would make you empathize with him. Trynauer’s interviews with Valentine seem too facile and lazy without asking truly hard, provocative questions such as: What makes Valentino so special compared to other designers such as Yves Saint Laurent? Also, why does Valentino’s fashion truly matter within the fashion world? Those previously unfamiliar with the work of Valentino will find it sporadically interesting to observe him behind-the-scenes at work whether he’s calmly explaining his requests, comments and complains or yelling them frustratingly. Everyone else, especially fashion aficionados, will find Valentino: The Last Emperor to be superficial, unprovocative and bland. Number of times I checked my watch: 5. Released by Truly Indie. Opens at the Film Forum.