The story of Vivian Maier a nanny in 60-70's New York and Chicago who, unbeknownst to many, had a secret passion for photography. Her incredible body of work, only discovered after her ... See full summary »
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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
First, I would suggest everyone of you to go online and watch "Vivian Maier: Who Took Nanny's Pictures?" produced by the BBC, and please come back to read the rest of this review.
The BBC documentary being released a few months before John Maloof's film, I was interested to learn what Maloof had more to show or tell about Vivian Maier, and risk a unflattering comparison with professional journalists.
Technically, I have to say that "Finding Vivian Maier" is not impressive.
A documentary about a photographer would be asking for voice-over narration, to give full screen-time to the photos, videos and belongings of Vivian Maier. Contrarily, John Maloof (or his hands, or his reflection in a mirror) is in front of the camera for a long part of his video. Especially disappointing for a theatre release.
The content of the film is also disappointing, and a bit sad.
Most of the information are already known from news articles, or from "Who took Nanny's pictures?". Moreover, despite owning 100000 negatives of Maier, Maloof is not showing a single piece of exclusive material in his documentary. Not once did the documentary attempt to define her art, or try to identify the artistic influences of Vivian Maier. Maloof depicts her like a kind of "idiot savant", an autistic genius totally disconnected from the arts of her time (BBC's documentary shows that Maier was influenced by Henri-Cartier Bresson and the surrealists - she even crossed Salvador Dali's path).
More worrying to me were 2 ideas conveyed by John Maloof in his video : - Maloof does not need journalists, he can write himself documentary about Vivian Maier himself. I think it is quite troubling that Maloof (the documentary maker) does not even try being unbiased and factual about Maloof (the businessman). For example, I would love to hear Maloof about his past real-estate activities in Chicago, why he bought so many belongings of Vivan Maier, and how he is earning his life today.
Maloof does need museum curators. Showing his MoMA letter, Maloof seems to state "museums refused Vivian's art initially, so I am (at least) as competent to manage the artistic heritage of Vivian Maier".
It is frightening that most photographs of Maier are under the control of a single person, who do not have much of an art diploma, but acts as a "chief curator" ("curator", noun 1. the person in charge of a museum 2. A MANAGER, superintendent ... what an irony).
So dear John (if I may), what about transferring every ownership and reproduction rights to a non-profit "Vivian Maier" foundation ?
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