Friday, October 17, 2014

Art and Craft

Hey, it's another example of that Kendall Square phenomenon:

(1) Show preview in front of every movie for a month or three
(2) Advertise that the movie is only playing for a week
(3) Get enough business that it gets held over!

I occasionally wonder if both (1) & (2) are necessary for (3) to happen, combining well-seeded interest with manufactured urgency. It worked well enough on me, I guess, although I may have seen that this and The Two Faces of January were held over before buying a ticket.

Also: They must have been showing some sort of sneak preview Tuesday night, because although the line at the box office was easily manageable, the one for snacks was out the door. Not sure I've ever seen that happen before, and I'm kind of curious what the movie was (guess: St. Vincent).

Art and Craft

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 14 October 2014 in Landmark Kendall Square #6 (first-run, DCP)

One of the neat things about Art and Craft is that it hints at a number of different angles to an already-interesting story, acknowledging that it is all but impossible to fit the entirety of a tale of art forgery and con artistry that spans decades into a ninety-minute documentary produced at the tail end. Faced with this situation, many filmmakers will wind up calling attention to the gaps rather than maintaining a sharp focus that allows them to make a strong movie with the material they can get.

That, in large part, involves following Mark Landis, who has spent much of his adult life copying artwork and donating his facsimiles to various museums, seldom being caught and never prosecuted - "lying" does not legally become "fraud" until money changes hands, and Landis never asked for payment. Time is also spent with Matthew Leninger, the registrar at the Cincinnati Art Museum who has spent the most time documenting Landis's activities and actually met him when working a similar job in Oklahoma City, as well as Aaron Cowan, a curator at the University of Cincinnati's art museum, and John Copper, the Financial Times Magazine writer who ended Landis's anonymity with a major profile article.

To say Landis is a peculiar case is to severely understate the matter. It's not that a writer couldn't make him up if this story was a fiction, but he or she might get accused of building something exaggerated and a little too on-the-nose: He has a stooped posture and is extremely soft-spoken, with a manner of incorporating quotations from film and television into his speech that makes for an easy parallel with his forgeries - he never claims the words or artwork as his own, but always comes off as mimicking the surface rather than examining what's underneath. There's a telling moment when he says he would have been a good priest because he can imitate what the title character does on Father Brown (although it's not hard to imagine him toiling away in a monastery, perfectly transcribing illustrated texts, in some previous century).

Full review at EFC.

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