Altina Schinasi, (1907 - 1999), was a paradox. Simultaneously seductive and reserved, her sheltered upbringing was in sharp contrast to the bold sexuality of her artwork, and she created a ...
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Altina Schinasi, (1907 - 1999), was a paradox. Simultaneously seductive and reserved, her sheltered upbringing was in sharp contrast to the bold sexuality of her artwork, and she created a fashion sensation in the 1930s with her design for Harlequin eyeglasses. Altina is an affecting, provocative, and richly informative documentary about an American trendsetter-a woman before her time. Free of academic constraints and confident in her keen intellect, she crafted fragments of her life into sculptures that defined her surreal and original world. Her whimsical art was also anchored in social issues: her film on George Grosz took on the Holocaust, earning her an Oscar nomination and winning her the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. She befriended Martin Luther King Jr. and supported his struggle. And during the Red Scare, she did not hesitate to hide John Berry-who was blacklisted for having directed a documentary on the Hollywood Ten-in her Beverly Hills home. As a sculptor, her ... Written by
Peter and Victoria Sanders
This documentary, based on the life of Altina Schinasi (1907-1999) was a difficult film for me to rate, because on one hand I found her to be a talented and fascinating woman. However, on the other hand I felt like the movie only was giving a partial accounting of her life, especially since it was made by her grandson Peter Sanders, with other family members contributing to its' production. Thus I couldn't get past the distinct feeling like this was more a family project than not.
Schinasi was an inventor, designer, sculptress, and painter, who was also active in political causes she believed in. She invented and patented the very popular Harlequin glasses and eye-wear for women. Her sculptures, some of which she called chairacters (combinations of benches and chairs with sculptured figures) are most striking and impressive, in my opinion.
The doc goes into rather great detail about Schinasi's personal life, coming from great wealth (her father being a tobacco magnate), her 4 marriages, and 2 sons, with a lot of the detail coming from her own accounting (obviously interviews from years ago). Also, relatives, ex-husbands, and those that knew her contributed to the narration.
During these interviews, Schinasi always seemed matter-of fact, despite any revelations she was making, with no emotions being displayed. At times, she even strangely was seemingly reading from some type of script. I imagine this would make sense when it was revealed that when her eldest son Denis passed away suddenly, she did not cry at the time.
Overall, I found this documentary quite interesting, as I knew nothing about Altina Schinasi before viewing it, but I felt the film was hampered by not showing what really made her tick. In other words, what inspired her to be so creative and talented and who she really was.
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