"In 1993 the artist Anselm Kiefer left his native Germany and moved to a derelict silk factory on 86 acres in the southern French town of Barjac," begins Kristin Hohenadel in the New York Times. "He shored up the old industrial buildings to make them habitable. Then he brought in a crew of locals to bulldoze bare land, dig a network of underground tunnels and erect concrete structures to house his large-scale paintings and sculptures made from lead, wood, glass and other materials, transforming the landscape into a giant workshop and a monumental work of art. Mr Kiefer has since moved here, where he lives with his family and works in a warehouse outside the city. But his final days in Barjac were captured in Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow, a documentary by the British director Sophie Fiennes that runs at Film Forum in New York from Wednesday through Aug 23."
"The movie offers the only chance that most of us will probably have to visit what he left behind, this strange, eerie Kieferland," notes Manohla Dargis, also in the NYT. "Ms Fiennes tries to make sure we have a nice time. Shot in film and digital, the movie opens and closes with a series of smoothly photographed, seamlessly edited traveling shots in and outside the rooms, caverns, tunnels and other spaces at La Ribaute. The locations are spooky, ugly-beautiful and mysterious, as are the canvases and other artworks scattered in and around them. The camera movements are graceful, almost ethereal, yet the objects themselves — with their impastos of organic and inorganic materials, their metaphoric resonances, historical allusions and intimations of war — feel unmistakably weighty."
Melissa Anderson in the Voice: "In equal parts mesmerizing and disorienting, Over Your Cities (the title comes from the biblical story of Lilith) plunges viewers into the earth, wind, and fire of Kiefer's massive-scale projects: bulldozed terrain, dust and ash being tossed onto canvases, a blowtorch used to solder and liquefy metals."
"Breathtaking imagery competes with a scary lack of human interest in this hypnotic, potentially alienating documentary," finds Joshua Rothkopf in Time Out New York.
Updates: Alison Willmore at the AV Club: "Fiennes doesn't seem interested in providing a bridge for new audiences to understand her subject — her last film, Slavoj Žižek's lecture The Pervert's Guide to Cinema, was broader and more entertaining, but similarly unapologetic. And why should she apologize? Films bear no inherent obligation to educate. But when Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow moves away from observing the art, from the camera gliding through Kiefer's underground labyrinths or the stunning skyline of tottering towers he constructs at the film's end, it grows numbing, a drone of gray-clad men working in front of gray backdrops on gray pieces that will be much more interesting when complete."