Manet: Portraying Life

Rating = C

This is simultaneously about an exhibition of 50 of Manet's paintings and about Manet himself and his painting. We are shown the exhibition hall, and a narrator and interviewer stands in front of various paintings and asks various people who are mostly from the art or museum world about the paintings and Manet. There are also a few scenes done elsewhere. I learned some new things about various styles of painting and was reminded about some history I had previously read about Manet; this was interesting. However, there were aspects of the film that were quite annoying, for instance, overly long shots of a painting on the far wall of a large exhibition room.

Most annoying was the way the film approached a number of paintings that it discussed in a little depth. The camera would start in the distance and ever so slowly pull closer to the painting, all the while the painting was too far away to be seen well. Then the camera would move so close to the painting that one could only see a part of it. It was as if there was some unstated permissions issue where the audience was not allowed to see the whole painting as large as possible on the screen. All the while this camera approach was happening, some minimalist music was happening with widely spaced bonging notes which felt to me like the chiming of a clock, and between the bongs there were little not-so-fast-either sequences of notes which felt to me like the ticking of a clock. This same sequence of the cameras approach and the music was used time after time for a bunch of paintings. It seemed endless and insipid — like they didn't have enough content for a feature length movie and needed to drag things out in time.

Hopefully the next in this series of painting “exhibition documentaries” will be more interesting. However, I worry that the film maker has found his formula and will not be changing it.

[2013-04-10, Cape Cinema, Dennis MA]