Chuck Close: A Portrait in Progress (2003)

Written & Directed by Marion Cajori

Released by Home Vision
Rating: NR
Region: 1
Anamorphic: No.

My Advice: Fans of art must rent; fans of the artist should own.

On the surface, if someone explains what artist Chuck Close does to you, it sounds simple enough: he takes photographic portraits and then converts them into pointillistic paintings. Sounds simple, sure, but once you see his stuff, you know it's not simple in the least. From far away they look like intense pictures of faces, but walk close enough and you see: the face is comprised of scores of squares, each with their own color and intensity. It's like the two faces and the chalise business: mess of strangely colored blobs morphs into a face as you take it all in and vice versa. Abstract and yet not, all on the same canvas.

Close's story is a fascinating one: from how he got on the self-portrait kick because he was the one person he could count on to sit still and get snapped at to his wife relating what happened with the injury which paralyzed a great deal of his body--it's highly engaging and moving material. And throughout the story of Close's life and work--along with some input from people like Jasper Johns and Philip Glass--you get footage of Close working as you're ostensibly taken step by step through his process.

The film itself is short, but it hits all the points it needs to and does so well. The DVD has no features, which is a shame. I'd have loved to have seen a still gallery showing the stages of the painting he works on during the docu, or just a gallery of some of his other works. Certainly, we get a good amount of them during the course of the film, but still--more is more, and every little bit helps.

This is a great docu for anyone who's familiar with Close's work--or not, as was the case with myself. Be prepared to want to grab one of the books listed below, because while it will kick start your appetite for Close, it certainly won't sate it.

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