Doc Roundup: January 10, 2007

by |

IN THEATERS
A film still from Chuck Close: An Elegant Portrait of the Art World's Leading PortraitistChuck Close — painter, photographer, printmaker — is the subject of a new documentary film by Marion Cajori, Chuck Close: An Elegant Portrait of the Art World’s Leading Portraitist. Previously, Ms. Cajori had made a short film that aired on PBS in 1998 called Chuck Close: A Portrait in Progress. The new feature-length film, which is an expansion of the earlier short, focuses on Close’s laborious artistic process and his artist friends — including Phillip Glass, Robert Rauschenberg and Kiki Smith — many of whom have also served as his subjects. The film was the last work by Cajori, who died in 2006. Variety calls Chuck Close a “magisterial documentary” and says the film is “a major contribution from a cinematic master who died at the height of her powers.” The New York Times writes that the film “excels … in its depiction of the physical process of making art.”
In The Business of Being Born by Abby Epstein, producer, former talk show host and Hairspray (the John Waters version) star Ricki Lake gives birth, naked, in a bathtub. The scene is certainly an attention-getter, but critics point out that the film is a serious and informative look at the process of childbirth in the U.S. Through archival footage, interviews with experts, and graphic scenes of women giving birth, the film explores natural childbearing as well as cesarean births. The Village Voice commends the film for having crafted “an absorbing, thought-provoking inquiry into what modern birth has become and how to make it better,” but is critical of its “…obliviously upper-class, sanctimoniously yuppie-crunchy slant.” In a three-star review, TV Guide says that the film “provides a great deal of food for thought.”

ON DVD
Seth Gordon‘s The King of Kong — a tale of two very different men competing for the title of world’s greatest Donkey Kong player — showed up on a number of 2007′s best documentary lists. Despite the unorthodox topic, critics overwhelmingly found the film funny and irresistible. The reviewer for Film Threat calls it “…not just one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen, [but] it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Period.” And The Miami Herald points out that the film is more than just a funny look at the video game subculture, calling it a “nuanced study in obsession, dedication, manipulation, ethics and how the all-American need to be the best at something — anything — can shape a life.”

Ruiyan Xu
Ruiyan Xu
Former POVer Ruiyan Xu worked on developing and producing materials for POV's website. Before coming to POV, she worked in the Interactive and Broadband department at Channel Thirteen/WNET. Ruiyan was born in Shanghai and graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Modern Culture and Media.