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Absolute Wilson (2006)

6.9
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 109 users   Metascore: 69/100
Reviews: 3 user | 24 critic | 16 from Metacritic.com

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert Wilson ...
Himself
Arnold Aronson ...
Himself
Robin Brentano ...
Himself
...
Himself
...
Himself (archive footage)
Charles Fabius ...
Himself
Felipe Fernandez ...
Himself
Andy De Groat ...
Himself
...
Himself
Arthur Holmberg ...
Himself
George Klauber ...
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Trudy Kramer ...
Herself
...
Himself
Harvey Lichtenstein ...
Himself
Cindy Lubar ...
Herself
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Genres:

Documentary

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Release Date:

12 October 2006 (Germany)  »

Also Known As:

Apsolutni Vilson  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$6,879 (USA) (27 October 2006)

Gross:

$65,768 (USA) (16 March 2007)
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The Knee Plays
By David Byrne
Courtesy of RZO Music Inc.
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User Reviews

 
Portrait of an artist
1 November 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"This is a film about a full life, and art is part of it. It is not a film about art and life as part of it." Director Katharina Otto-Berstein emphasizes this distinction when talking about her new documentary film, "Absolute Wilson." As a portrait of the American legendary theater artist Robert Wilson, the film cannot help but focus on his art. The point is that art is his life.

Berstein traces Wilson's life, beginning with his childhood, through the development of his artistic sensibilities against a backdrop of family, personal struggles, and social forces. Throughout the film, the juxtaposition of visual images from Wilson's life with scenes from his theatrical productions suggests that the artist drew much of his inspiration from his experiences with the world around him. While this method is not unusual, Wilson's approach to creating art is.

His productions—including such works as The Life and Times of Sigmund Freud, Death and Destruction in Detroit and Einstein on the Beach—are visual tour de forces. Wilson emphasizes movement and light in favor of language. He communicates in symbols and gestures rather than traditional narrative form.

Berstein's film eloquently links Wilson's theatrical style to his personal relationship with language. Wilson stuttered as a child, a disability that exacerbated his status as a social outsider. In the film, he explains how he overcame this speech impediment with the help of a dancer, Byrd Hoffman, who taught him to slow down his thoughts and his movements when trying to speak. This moment, he claims, changed his entire perception of the world—and his work reflects this shift. Slow, deliberate movements take the place of realistic motion; speech occurs infrequently, often in abstraction.

The art of choreography enabled Wilson to deal with his own disability; since then, he has utilized this potential of art to help many disabled children. During a brief stint at architectural school, Wilson took a part-time job doing movement therapy with brain damaged children. He encourages expression through non-linguistic forms, and uses his theatrical work to illustrate the atypical thought processes of mentally and physically disabled individuals. Most famously, he adopted the deaf-mute child Raymond Andrews, with whom he collaborated to create the "silent opera" Deafman Glance. Similarly, he incorporated the texts of the autistic Christopher Knowles into the highly successful deconstructionist production A Letter to Queen Victoria.

In following with Wilson's preference for the visual over the linguistic, Berstein's film does its best to show us the correlations between the artist's personality and philosophy, his philosophy and his work (both theatrical and social). An impressive amount of stock footage constitutes much of the film, from still photos to archival videos. Berstein's manipulation of these images often resembles a kind of collage, a form of communication that seems well-suited to Wilson's own artistic style.

As a documentary, however, "Absolute Wilson" requires the use of interviews to fully tell its story. Along with Wilson himself, Berstein builds her portrait of the artist from the input of a wide variety of people—family members, actors, critics and friends. While the multi-faceted perspective this approach creates proves intriguing, the effect sometimes seems more superficial than revealing. Nonetheless, several of the interviews become quite compelling, particularly the one with Wilson's sister.

Overall, Bernstein's film is remarkable in its portrayal of art as a lifestyle. Issues of father-son relations and social ostracization underlie the story of Robert Wilson's life, but Bernstein reveals how Wilson's art provided an outlet for coming to terms with the difficulties of life as well as a means to improve it. As one commenter states, almost more than any other artist, Wilson has succeeded in creating his own world through his art. Indeed, "Absolute Wilson" ultimately proves that, for Wilson, art is absolute.

This review was first posted on www.cinemattraction.com.


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