HERE IS ALWAYS SOMEWHERE ELSE: THE LIFE OF BAS JAN ADER (Rene Daalder) Rating: NNNN
Rene Daalder proves that a personal film on an obscure figure can tell a more fascinating story than docs of famous artists holding forth on their work.
Bas Jan Ader, a Dutchman who moved to Los Angeles, where he married, taught art and created a few performances and installations, disappeared in 1975 while trying to cross the Atlantic in a tiny boat as part of an art piece called In Search Of The Miraculous.
Through narration and interviews, Dutch expat Daalder offers insights into Ader’s family history (the Nazis executed his minister father for hiding Jews), the Dutch and California art scenes and national character in the Low Countries. The film also documents Ader’s small surviving oeuvre, including I’m Too Sad To Tell You, a film of the artist crying, and footage of him riding his bicycle into a canal, falling from a tree and a roof and reading a story about a Niagara Falls jumper from Reader’s Digest.
This tale of an unlucky artist who flunked out of art school (his thesis piece consisted of two bricks cemented together), never achieved much success and died mysteriously transcends the “film about art” category to become a work of art itself.
RODIN: THE SCULPTOR’S VIEW (Jake Auerbach) Rating: NNN
In this more traditional educational doc, the seminal work of Auguste Rodin is seen through the eyes of contemporary British sculptors, some more articulate than others, including the three Anthonies (Gormley, Cragg and Caro), Rachel Whiteread and Rebecca Warren.
Studies and small works in plaster, wax and clay in Paris’s Rodin Museum offer fresh views of the master’s oeuvre and processes.
The interviews, though a bit chopped up, let us peek into various studios, revealing the labour and staff behind such massive undertakings. Comments on public commissions show that government bureaucracies are still just as hard to deal with as they were in Rodin’s time. The Rodins are amazing as always, but I would have liked to see more of the contemporary sculpture. (Both films are in the Canadian Art Real Artists Film festival, at the Al Green Theatre.)