Friday, March 19, 2021

The artist bio-doc--handled just about perfectly--in Chris McKim's WOJNAROWICZ: F**K YOU F*GGOT F**KER

That this new documentary, WOJNAROWICZ: F**K YOU F*GGOT F**KER, about the late activist/artist David Wojnarowicz (pronounced voh-nah-ROH-vitch), seems so rich and complete, so deep and direct that you finish it with the feeling that you know this man (I certainly wished that I had) is due as much to the help that Wojnarowicz himself unwittingly gave the director, Chris McKim, by making and leaving behind, nearly from childhood onward, a visual record of his difficult and fascinating life. 

Thanks to Wojnarowicz's own record and to the superb way in which McKim (shown at right) and his editor Dave Stanke have woven this into the rest of the narrative, we understand the artist better and better, as well as further appreciating his work -- much of which is seen here -- as the documentary moves on. 

How the life affected the work (and vice versa) is also demonstrated exceedingly well; the film is practically a model for how to put together a bio-doc about an artist. But of course most docs about artists are not lucky enough to have the first-person record of a life that Mr. Wojnarowicz  left us.

From a singularly drunken and abusive father to living life on the street as a very young teenage hustler to the final years of AIDS that ended his too-short life, Wojnarowicz (shown above and below via his art) seemed to move from crisis to crisis. 

We learn of his relationship with his sister and (eventually estranged) brother, the fine photographer Peter Hujar (who was his lover for a time and his longtime mentor and best friend), and we hear from various friends -- primarily Fran Lebowitz, who, as usual, provides terrific commentary, including how Wojnarowicz even became involved with The Mob!

Once art critic Grace Gluek of The New York Times comes upon the work of David and other East Village artists, major success arrives, and Wojnarowicz begins to draw the attention of "collectors," some of whom hire him to produce installations for them. The wealthy Mnuchin family is one of these, and what our artist creates for them will raise some eyebrows and provoke some laughs. ("David didn't really like rich people," one of the doc's commentators quietly notes.)

The more we learn, the more we come to care about this guy, and so well-done, rich and comprehensive is the entire documentary that, by its end, you may feel that you'ved lived through several decades, while getting to know -- and appreciate -- an amazing artist, activist, writer and man. And without a trace of any cheapjack sentimentality included, I suspect you'll be greatly moved, as well.

From Kino Lorber and running a just-about-perfectly-timed 105 minutes, Wojnarowicz: F**K You F*ggot F**ker (the title is named after one of the artist's works, above, that we view during the film) opens in virtual cinemas today, Friday, March 19, at Film Forum in New York City and elsewhere. To see all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters, click here and then scroll down.

No comments: