Finding Vivian Maier

2013 documentary

Rating: 15/20

Plot: The filmmaker gets his hands on tons of pictures and negatives from a mysterious and completely unknown woman who is either a nanny-photographer or a photographer-nanny. He tries to track down who she is and make her work available to the world.

At first, I worried that this was going to be a whole lot of the narrator/director/guy-who-finds-the-pictures. And it is a lot in the beginning, but this is a cool documentary mostly because of the story and he is a big part of that. My brother (known as "Anonymous" on here) recommended this a long time ago, and I got as far as putting it in my Netflix queue. It's a solid recommendation because the documentaries I usually wind up liking best are ones that unfold like mysteries, those you-can't-make-this-up type things that keep you focusing on a story. And I also like documentaries about eccentric artists, and as the interview subjects start filling in the pieces to this puzzle of a person Vivian Maier, she becomes more and more intriguing. There are details that make her endearing and other details that make her pretty unlikable, but I couldn't help being fascinated by the woman.

A lot of it is that I thought her work was really good. I don't know much about art, especially pictures that don't even move, but it's easy to see why the art world was ready to start stroking themselves after seeing her work. I really liked the pictures of individual people as she manages to bring out this humanity. You almost see their souls. She captures life in urban environments, finding a lot of subjects who look like they'd be more comfortable in photographs taken during the Great Depression or dust storms or something. The work is very human and very striking.

The documentary structure is fine, the story told mostly chronologically. What I kept wondering was what the artist herself, a woman who seemed to want no fame whatsoever, would have thought about all of this. In a way, there's an invasion of privacy, especially since there seems to be almost no stone unturned in squeezing every possible minute detail about the woman's background, photography interests, and nanny career. Vivian is brought out of her obscurity kicking and screaming. It doesn't seem 100% right to me, but her work is definitely something that the art world needed the chance to see.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i am appreciative of the film maker finding her work but i am a little upset how he is capitalizing off of his discovery. you know me i would love to have a few of her photographs but the galleries carrying her artwork are wanting 3k+ for her photos. also have problems with one mile gallery that is artificially inflating the prices of mark hogankamps work. by the way that guy from the office will be playing mark hogankamp in the biopic "marwencol" hurray :(