DVD Review: THE WOODMANS

DVD REVIEW:  The Woodmans 
REVIEWED BY: CINEMA LATTE 
GRADE: 3.5 OUT OF 5 REELS 
RELEASE DATE: June 5, 2012 
DISC INFORMATION: 1 disc, color, Widescreen 
RUNNING TIME:  83 minutes 
SPECIAL FEATURES:  NONE 
RATED: Not Rated, but would probably get an R rating for subject matter and nudity
GENRE:  Documentary
 
STARRING:  Betty, George, and Charlie Woodman

This documentary follows the story about an entire family dedicated to art in various forms and the tragic suicide of their daughter during her promising career in photography.  At the age of 14, Francesca Woodman was given a camera and her passion was born.  She began taking pictures of anything and everything and soon began including herself in the scenery, most often in the nude.  As she struggled with her art and her inner demons, her artwork reflected some of her internal battles with image and self.  

This film talks with her mom, Betty, her father, George, and her brother Charlie, as well as several of her classmates and models.  Together with the archive footage and Francesca’s diary, the film maker tries to piece together this fragile artist’s psyche.  As each person speaks, you get a small look into her life growing up with an artistic family.

Her mother, Betty, is a successful pottery maker.  Her works can be seen hanging in the Chinese embassy and various museums.  Her mother blames herself for not being a good mother and leading to her daughter’s suicide but then buries herself into her work so that she doesn’t have to think about it.  Betty is portrayed as a very emotionally challenged person and almost cold and angry towards her daughter.

Her father, George, is a painter.  He has struggled to get his works seen for years.  Just as he finally gets a show for his paintings, his daughter kills herself.  Now he tries to recreate her photographs by taking photographs of his own with models very similar to what his daughter had used and sometimes even including his daughter’s original piece in his photograph.  George is portrayed as an emotionally distraught man who longs to connect to his dead daughter in desperate ways.  It seems rather sad to see this man trying to recreate his daughter’s work this way.

Her brother, Charlie, expresses his talents through film.  He has long since left the family behind and it is touched on briefly that he chose to leave the family house and has not been back since.  They never discuss what happened between the son and the parents.  

It is interesting in that the film maker is never heard asking questions in this entire film.  The only dialogue is from the interviewed subjects and it is cut in a way to keep the story flowing along without any outside narration.  That is very impressive to me.  

Overall, the story is alright.  It takes guesses at why Francesca killed herself through the interviews of the people around her and some of her diary entries.  I actually felt more pity and detachment from the characters because of their detachment and emotional challenges while talking about their daughter/friend.  
 
It can be argued on what the filmmaker is trying to accomplish with this piece.  How unstable of a family life comes from two parents devoted to their artistic voice instead of their children.  How everyone has a sense of not belonging no matter what their genius level is achieved.  How a family struggles to reconnect to a lost child.  I’m sure that there are even more arguable points.

This film is in the middle of my grade scale because it didn’t seem to really go anywhere.  It is just a snapshot of what may or may not have happened based on what people around the struggling photographer thought.  Although, considered an artist before her time, the story never seems to give any insight other than guesses and a look at her life through her works.  I didn’t find it as entertaining as I did pitiful and almost pathetic where the parents are concerned.

Not something I would recommend, but maybe a more artistic photographer would find something more in this film than I did.  

That’s my review and I’m sticking to it!
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