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Art and Craft is one of the most fascinating documentaries about art that I have ever seen. It's well made, well put together, and delivers a very satisfying experience overall. In fact, this film fascinated me more than some live action movies have.
Art and Craft is a documentary that follows a few days in the life of famous art forger, Mark. A Landis. Mr. Landis is a savant who has spent 30 years deceiving museums with his drawings by making them believe that they actually have art by a famous artist, when, in fact it's just him. Landis has the amazing ability to copy a painting almost exactly like the original artist, although Landis is not a very good artist, rarely paints original art of his own, and prefers instead to cheat and copy. This film explores Landis as we see him go through his childhood, learn how he became obsessed with art, how his fraud was eventually exposed, and also see him prepare for an exhibit based upon his "fake" work.
This documentary was a very pleasant surprise. After weeks of films that were okay, but lackluster, Art and Craft's high quality was a breath of fresh air. This documentary doesn't portray Landis as a criminal or villain, or glorify him as some sort of hero. Instead, it just portrays him as a real human being who is a curiously strange person. In total, Landis has given 47 forged paintings to 46 art museums around America. In the film, we see interviews with Landis himself where he explains why he became a forger, what his life is like, and his understanding of his mental problems. We also see interviews with people who have met Landis, or people who worked at various art museums that Landis has tried to give forged paintings to, and how they may or may not see him as a villain. This documentary method is quite effective and allows us to see perspective from both sides.
Some of the directing choices in this film were interesting as well. Filmmakers Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman really show they know how to use a camera. Sequences such as the one where we see Landis's photo gallery and his forged art really help to emphasize him as a person. While I quite liked how the regular scenes kept being intercut with movie clips from films like Casablanca and Charlie Chan, as Landis is shown to be a bit of a classic film fan, having grown up watching a lot of television and movies.
Art and Craft is a wonderfully made documentary about one of the most fascinating characters of real life art. I've watched plenty of great documentaries in the past, but this one reminds me of why I find filmmaking to be interesting in the first place. I definitely recommended this film.
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