Saturday, 6 October 2012

REVIEW - MARINA ABRAMOVIC: THE ARTIST IS PRESENT


Matthew Akers' loving documentary benefits from discovering its content as it progresses, rather than having a story to tell from the outset. It is not just a slew of facts, elaborated upon by a series of talking heads, but an exceedingly thorough and slickly produced account of events in motion. The pacing is almost impeccable, only losing momentum occasionally and never irreparably. Akers' devotion to Abramovic may repel some viewers, but it produces a depth in the portrayal that is essential to the film's success. Akers enables the film to become an emotional chronicle, rather than solely event-driven, which is surely the only appropriate destination for any documentary on Abramovic. It's also the only way in which a film about a woman sitting in a chair for three months, largely mute and motionless can become even slightly interesting. Abramovic devotees will likely be pleased by the narrow yet deep focus on Marina, and there's sufficient detail of her life and previous work to satisfy the uninitiated too. Brief footage from Fox News provides humour, just shy of smugness (although it must be OK to be smug about Fox News), and, despite the supposed power of Abramovic's project, the lightness of tone keeps matters relatable and instills a sense of ease. Indeed, it perhaps tempers said power, which may or may not be a good thing. Cinematography and sound are very good for a live, location-filmed documentary. This film may lack the importance of Abramovic's own art, but this is just a documentary about art, not actual art itself, and Marina's evident self-effacing good nature persuades me that she might wholly approve of this approach.