FINDING VIVIAN MAIER
(directed by John Maloof & Charlie Siskel, 2013)
**** (out of 5)
> I thought this was a documentary about a lifelong nanny who had a secret life as an extremely talented photographer whose gifts were not revealed until after her death- and it was. But it was much more.
. FINDING VIVIAN MAIER starts out good, (with interviewees struggling to think of one word to sum up the contradictory Vivian Meier they knew,) gets better the longer it goes on, then turns dark. Darkly dark. Which is what makes it exceptionally good.
. These photos are stunning. Of the hundred or so images used in the film, I may have taken one exposure in a lifetime of pursuing photography that approach this quality. There doesn’t seem to be a dud in the bunch (except for one peek into a trash can, that didn’t strike me as crazily wonderful- as did EVERY SINGLE OTHER IMAGE used here). The thing is: there tens of thousands of them! Vivian Maier left behind a prodigious lifetime of uniformly stunning work. But as it unfolds, this fine film morphs into a mystery. Vivian was such an enigma, the filmmaker who bought a huge cache of her negatives at auction, became a bit obsessed with the many questions about this posthumous talent, and began an investigation that elicits much contradictory testimony- and eventually uncovers a few shocking allegations.
> This film paints a fascinating picture of a complicated woman, undermined by her own self-destructive behavior and struggles with hoarding and mental illness. So good! What an artist. What a body of work! What a film.
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