Further unsolicited thoughts on "Discovering Vivian Maier" by TinyTownTimes.com critic, Chad Coles.
Perhaps I was a trifle hasty in panning this documentary.
After all, the caveat is in the title, and my expectations did not absorb the full meaning of "discovering." Which includes, the story about the discoverer and lengthy interviews with folks who knew VM. She is a cipher, so it's human nature to probe the abyss.
The documentary is in fact, true to its title, if not true to my expectations. I see this happen again and again with docs: I bring what I want to know to the presentation and it either fits or rubs me the wrong way. I am not a fan of sit-down interviews. And, aside from his Civil War opus and parts of his Jazz doc, Ken Burns's work gives me hives. So few filmmakers know how to let a story tell itself.
One cool thing about this doc is that without anyone saying so, Maloof, the discoverer, is revealed to be as big a kook as Maier, in his own hipsta way.
Things that were missing for me: A real narrative sense of the era in which Maier did her best work. No street photographer could get away so easily with what she did nowadays and most of her subjects do not exist in society any longer. Also, we're much more self-conscious in general and a camera immediately means it's time to pose and try to look good. Too, our society is saturated by surveillance of all kinds and, for all their omniscience, cameras are off-putting to most people. I know I don't like having my picture taken.
I shot a woman hugging a kid on The Commons. It was a sweet moment and sweeter b/c there was a mud puddle between them. I made the mistake of posting it on FB. The woman found out and was upset and demanded I take it down. I did. That photo is now deleted from all my files. Tiny Town is not an anonymous urban landscape.
Other thoughts: Maier didn't live in such litigious, self-entitled times and that gave her a freedom overlooked in the doc's narrative.
Almost all of her subjects are way too dead to complain, except for a surprising bunch of senescent foreigners ... Well ... I won't spoil it for you. But the most touching piece of this film is too short and comes near the end ...
Chad Coles, who is some times ... umm. Wrong!