BOOKS OF JAMES (Ho Tam, Canada). 75 minutes. Monday (May 21), 1 pm, NFB. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Visual artist Ho Tam makes a successful move to filmmaking in this ambitious and moving look at artist/AIDS activist James Wentzy.
Drawing on decades of Wentzy's own footage of himself and the events around him, Tam lets Wentzy tell his own life story, which includes a childhood in South Dakota and a move to Manhattan, where he struggled to get his artistic voice heard.
The early parts, in which Wentzy reads journal entries in a sad-sack monotone, lack focus, but news of his HIV-positive status wakes him up and gives his life and work more meaning.
Most moving of all is Tam's presentation of some of Wentzy's journal entries - drawings, receipts - which capture a sense of urban isolation and poverty with chilling simplicity.