BERT STERN: ORIGINAL MAD MAN (Shannah Laumeister). 89 minutes. Opens Friday (April 19) at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. See Times. Rating: N
Bert Stern: Original Mad Man is the laziest sort of documentary, the kind that unearths a relatively unknown American artist of marginal interest and tries to dust off his or her secret legacy for a general audience.
Director Shannah Laumeister inflates the significance of photographer Stern by connecting him to more famous people (Brigitte Bardot, Stanley Kubrick) while limply associating him with something of more contemporary cultural interest (the TV show Mad Men) by focusing on Stern's work developing the dapper sexual imagery of Madison Avenue advertising.
Like the sleazy-cool bigwigs on AMC's hit drama, Stern couches his macho misogyny in polished, debonair swagger. In his leering fetishization of the female form and his talk about bedding Japanese women, Stern comes across like some creepy uncle.
Of course, it's easy to make even an unlikeable, if passably talented, guy seem interesting when you ramp up his accomplishments and dress up the whole thing with jazz music, not so much revealing the drama inherent in Stern's life as fabricating it.