Capturing the essence of an artist seems to me to be one of the hardest things to do. So much of what makes one an artist (I assume) happens in one’s head, an interior monologue that Terrence Malick would be jealous of utilizing. Sabine Lidl‘s entrancing documentary, Nan Goldin – I Remember Your Face, seems to get pretty close to doing so.
The film obviously follows Nan Goldin, the world renowned photographer, as she negotiates time in Paris and Berlin, meeting with friends and colleagues, old and new, talking us through her trials and tribulations as a woman in the world she has chosen to inhabit. She lives up to the perception many might have of what an artist of her stature is like -an eccentric who details her obscure tastes in the art she collects (Catholic in nature), tells tales of wild times living in squats with 40+ people, describes her spiral into drug addiction and subsequent drying out as well as the numerous people she has fallen in love with only to have that love unrequited, all of which is included in or fueled her work. And its her work that is foremost in her mind. Books to publish, narrated slideshows to produce, new style collage combining themed work juxtaposed with famous art works by masters – all of it consumes her and occupies her every moment (at least as laid out in the film).
Goldin is an extremely mesmerizing character and I was all too willing to let her be my guide into this world. With her shock of curly red hair and her Janis Joplin-like voice (created by the enormous amount of cigarettes she smokes, no doubt), Goldin walks us through 40+ years of her own history in places like New York City and Berlin and captivates the entire time. Her energy is infectious and palpable even through the screen and it’s obvious that the people around her feed off of it as well. Even though the film runs barely over an hour, I couldn’t help but to get the sense that I really a chance to see what make Goldin tick, even through her quirks and foibles.
Almost episodic in nature, director Lidl shuttles us between many different places and people in Goldin‘s life, but keeps the viewer grounded in Goldin‘s journey without leaving us wondering where the hell we are and, most importantly, why are we there. To me, it’s as rare to see an artist like Goldin doing what she does to make it all happen as seeing a komodo dragon in its natural habitat, unmolested by the forces that surround it. I found this film to be deeply satisfying and completely engrossing and its short running time left me wanting more. Lidl‘s handheld camerawork allowed her to be present in the tale being told, not just existing as an observer and that is incredibly key to painting the portrait of Goldin laid out in the film. None of it seems contrived or manufactured and what we get is Goldin distilled into a 62-minute block. If art/artist/artistic process interest you, then this is a film you should see. This film is being screened daily at the Quad Cinema June 13-19 as part of the Kino! Festival of German Films in New York City.
Here is the trailer: