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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Compelling, arresting, lyrical, and astonishing

Author: foundseei from San Diego, CA
22 May 2006

This film premiered at Sundance '06 and I was one of a privileged few who chose an 8:00 am screening of something that sounded, on the face of it, macabre and grotesque. A friend who grudgingly accompanied had even lower expectations than I did.

We were blown away.

American culture as a whole has a neurotic, practically phobic relationship with death. The miracle of Cantor's film-making in "What Remains" is that, like his subject, he manages to create art that takes as its subject on of our last remaining taboos, wringing beauty from a subject matter that, taken on the face of it, seems the polar opposite.

I will be purchasing the DVD when it is released, and setting my TIVO to capture this when it premieres on HBO. I will be one of those maddening people who forces friends, family, heck, even total strangers to watch something they have no desire to watch--and I suspect that by the end of a first viewing, they, like the friend who saw the film with me, will have been deeply and permanently moved by the experience.

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9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Saw this at Sundance 2006

Author: gardenluvnnurse from United States
15 March 2006

Steven Cantor took almost 10 years to make this documentary on Sally Mann, the photographer made famous by her "pornographic" coffee table book titled: Immediate Family. Of course, this description is in the eye of the beholder, as I found the montage of pictures used from this book in the documentary to be absolutely beautiful. Mr. Cantor did a previous documentary on the backlash which came about following the release of Immediate Family by the conservative Christian Right, and wanted to make another documentary which really focused on Sally Mann the Photographer, her family, and every day struggles. Thus, What Remains was born. Sally's husband is afflicted with a rare nerve disease, and in my opinion, her latest work from 2004 is an effort to deal with her husbands inevitable death. She has switched subject matter from her children to nature scenes, but has a macabre fascination with decaying corpses, whether it be one of her beloved greyhounds, or bodies donated to a forensic lab in her home county. She gains access to one of these labs, and takes pictures of bodies in various states of decay. What sounds completely bizarre, turns out to be a really beautiful exhibit, which is counter-displayed by pictures of her now-adult children's faces, up close and personal, and still incredibly beautiful. Kind of a life vs. death type of image bombardment. The film documents her struggles to get her exhibit a showing, her husbands declining health, and her own personal doubts regarding her talent. According to the producer: soon to be showing on HBO. Not to miss. A+.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Excellent true portrait of a great American artist

Author: farron34 from United States
19 February 2013

Known for her use of a large format camera, each shot taken must be very deliberate. In a digital snapshot world, it's always nice to be reminded how the art was originally conceived - and the necessity of proper planning.

I think this may be one of the most honest documentaries made about an artist I've seen. It so tenderly shows her vulnerabilities as an artist, dealing with frustration, lost confidence and rejection in such a delicate and real way, one can't help but be affected by it. It also raises questions about how we, as a culture, view art (photography in particular). Can art only be considered "good" and properly appreciated if it hangs on the walls of the most prestigious museum or gallery?

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Art and Artist

Author: dazzlem from United States
6 July 2007

Nicely made doc about renowned photographer Sally Mann. It balances very informative scenes about the process of photography with intimate family scenes resulting in a strangely sad movie that packs a serious cathartic wallop. The film maker spent many years with the subject and captured her shift in subject matter from life to death. It's quite a journey that at times seems ready to shift into madness. The cinematography is quite good as is the score. Be warned, some of the scenes are NOT for young children. I was shocked by some of the images at a death farm where corpses are allowed to decompose in natural settings. They, of course become remarkable photos in Mann's capable hands. Running now in rotation on Cinemax.

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