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Real estate agent John Maloof explains how a trip to a local auction house, in search for old pictures to use for a history book about his neighborhood, resulted in him bidding and winning a box full of old negatives. John goes through the massive quantity of negatives, describes how impressed he is by the quality of the images, becomes quickly determined they are not reverent to his project and just puts them away. That could have very likely had been the end of the story, if the power of the images had not pushed him to fall in love with photography. John confides that his photo hobby quickly motivated him to set up a darkroom and devote large amounts of time printing. As he learned more about photography, he recognized that those negatives he had bought, then stored, were the work of a real master. In an attempt to confirm his suspicion, he selected about 100 images and put them online with the hope that the feedback would confirm his judgement as to the strength of the images.Written by
Lane J. Lubell of Cinemashadow.com
None of her pictures were ever published during her lifetime, but after death, street photographer Vivian Maier attained fame when undeveloped negatives from her deceased estate were published online. This documentary from first-time directors John Maloof and Charlie Siskel follows their attempts to probe into Maier's background and discover why she took so many photographs, yet never shared them with anyone. The film is very deliberately structured. The first half basks in Maier's magnificent work, focusing on her innovative camera angles and ability to candidly capture pure human emotion. The second half is dedicated to the investigation of who Maier was and what made her tick, and as the film progresses, we gradually learn (through thoughtfully spliced interviews) that she may have not just been an eccentric recluse, but in fact someone very paranoid with severe emotional problems. Some have commented that the documentary spends far too much time towards the end on the question of just how unbalanced Maier is (especially considering that nobody still knows for sure); then again, it is always understandable why Maloof and Siskel are so set on pursuing her past. She was, after all, a great artist and it is often fascinating to learn what makes such people tick. Especially interesting are the conflicting testimonies of what Maier was like. Maloof and Siskel may be unable to offer any definite answers or deeper insight into Maier's psyche, but this film is just as much about their attempt to understand an unknown artist as it is about the artist herself.
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