Finding Vivian Maier

February 22, 2015 at 4:01 pm | Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment
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A rather inauspicious way to wrap up 2014. I had intended to see “Two Days, One Night” but it got away from me, so I caught this On Demand, instead. So, sadly, this year in film for me started (with “Stranger by the Lake”) and ended poorly, though there was much to rave about in between. But more on that later. If nothing else, this minor documentary on a newly discovered photographer was only 83 minutes. However, for as lean as that seems, it still felt like it was mostly filler. Maier’s photography is beautiful and its discovery is a great joy. She had an eye for people and captured them with honesty, empathy and insight. Director John Maloof deserves a great deal of credit in preserving her work and tracking down her past. However, beyond that, there is little there. She was secretive and maybe/maybe not faked her French accent. No one really knew her and some people knew her as Viv, or Ms. Maier or Vivian. This is not the stuff of gripping narrative. In fact, Maloof has to stoop to tabloid level gossip and sensationalism in order to draw the film out. It feels a bit tired and one can’t help but be suspect of his motives. This film does little more than act as an advertisement (and a very effective one) for the thousands of photos that Maloof now owns the rights to and, that he repeatedly points out, the art establishment continues to ignore. Well, you can bet they won’t be ignoring Maier after this film. Which, in truth, is probably a good thing. She was an immense talent and, while a film on Maier may not have much depth, her photos certainly do.

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