Never has such an artless film been made about such a deeply artful and private person. Staggeringly beautiful photography discovered by a dude-bro who shrugs his way through the ethics of appropriation and then treats us to speeded up slideshow of him playing detective. We don't get to look at a single photo for more than ten seconds. In a documentary about a photographer.
After years of photography courses where so few women's work would be classified as "great," I was overjoyed to see Maier's phenomenal photos. She frames shots like Gary Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, Robert Frank...all the great modern male photographers, and adds something more. It's breath-taking work. The tale of her life is heart-breaking, yet what she managed to accomplish despite the obstacles is so inspiring.
I cannot assess this as a work of documentary because of Maloof's financial interests in the sale of Maier's works. This is advertisement for a product. The film itself is a well-constructed presentation of the life of an artist whose work speaks to me personally and deserves exposure, but no matter how well-intentioned, ultimately it can only be considered a good commercial.
Despite some tedious interviews toward the end, the collector and filmmaker tells the story of the enigmatic and talented photographer. He weaves together his own story of discovery when he purchased a storage locker auction lot that contained tens of thousands of never developed photo negatives, her story to the extent it is known, and the mysteries of what is not known with a tribute to her immense talent.
Fascinating documentary of the great but enigmatic artist. Some criticize it for being more about Maloof's investigation than Maier herself. The title tells you what it's about, though. Almost nothing was known about her. This is the investigation into who she was. We learn a lot about her in the process. She was so good at protecting her secrets that many of our questions remain unanswered by the end of the film.
There are some surprising moral questions asked by this one. Questions regarding the appropriation of an artist’s work after they are deceased, the matter of a person’s genius versus their actual personality, especially if that personality ended up damaging others. Vivian Maier was a great photographer and a fascinating person, but she could also be accused to child abuse in sometimes horrific measures.