The Woodmans, 2010, Scott Willis
This is a documentary ostensibly about a family of artists, The Woodmans, but is really about the youngest member - Francesca - an amazing talent who killed herself by jumping off a building when she was 22 in 1981.
is, if not the best doc I've seen in a few years, certainly the most captivating. The father is a painter, the mother works with pottery and sculpture, and the brother paints and does music. Francesca, from the time she was a pre-teen until her death, was a photographer. Her photos are some of the best black and white images I have ever seen. Many of her photographs show young women who are nude, who are blurred (due to movement and long exposure times), who are merging with their surroundings, or whose faces are obscured.
Now, I had never heard of Francesca before seeing this film, but apparently she is well known in the art world, and her work has often been seen in museums and art galleries since her death.
The film is told through interviews with the family and Francesca's friends and classmates. But the heart of the film is Francesca's photographs and film that she left behind. And as amazing a talent as she was from behind the camera, Francesca was maybe a better writer; the film uses her journal as a narrative structure and doorway into her thoughts, appearing in script on screen with no narration. Her last entry, the day of her death, is brilliant, sad and perfect.
Francesca's photographs are mostly self-portraits, and often nudes. Almost 40 years after they were taken, they are as modern as anything you can see today. Her sense of shadow and framing are simply astounding. All of this from a teenager.
Francesca's father, many years after her death, began to take photographs in the style of his daughter - using young, nude models as his subject. It's both a little creepy and heart-breaking. Her mother recently finished a huge art piece that was commissioned by the Chinese Embassy.
I am now a huge fan of her work and want to make a feature film of this amazingly talented girl.
Good film, great subject. Four out five stars.