DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
4K UHD
International DVDs
Theatrical
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
DVD Stalk
DVD Savant
High-Def Revolution
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum
Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

DVDTalk Info
Review Staff
About DVD Talk
Advertise
Newsletter Subscribe
Join DVD Talk Forum
DVD Talk Feeds


Sponsored Links

Search: For:
Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Duane Michals: The Man Who Invented Himself
Duane Michals: The Man Who Invented Himself
Kino // Unrated // January 13, 2015
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Matt Hinrichs | posted April 7, 2015 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Skip It
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
Printer Friendly

The Movie:

The documentary Duane Michals: The Man Who Invented Himself gets well-acquainted with its title subject, a conceptual artist, poet and photographer looking mighty spry and playful in his '80s. Recently released on DVD from Alive Mind Cinema and Kino Lorber, the film winds up being too deliberately obtuse to recommend - even for those who enjoy photography and/or lively octogenarians.

Despite the rich, varied impression of Duane Michals' life and career that emerges in The Man Who Invented Himself, the overly deliberate, oddball approach taken by director Camille Guchard lets him (and us) down. It begs the question, then, as to why someone as eccentric and likable as Michals would end up being the subject of such a silly, myopic film? Instead of doing a straightforward, talking-heads and expert testimony setup, Guchard (perhaps with Michals' input) decided to make it as a series of surreal, beautifully photographed yet painfully "cute" episodes. The movie is literally 90% Michals and Michals alone, goofing on himself in a way that suggests he's the art world equivalent of Being There's Chance the Gardener.

In bits and pieces throughout The Man Who Invented Himself, we get glimpses of Michals' working methods, his past shooting enigmatic portraits of actors and other notables (the most interesting segment, by far), his inspirations and how being gay informs his work, and his provincial childhood in a Pennsylvania industrial town. He also spends a good amount of time sharing his carefully composed black-and-white photos while reading their accompanying poetic, hand-written descriptions - text and imagery of people in various states of flux informed by a whimsical, dreamlike sensibility (the influence of French surrealist painter Rene Magritte looms large). The photo series themselves are darkly humorous and pretty fascinating, although in order to get to them one must wade through scene after scene of Michals acting spontaneous in varied settings, mugging for the camera, etc. Part of the film's disappointment stems from the director's choices, but I also think a good component of the film's dishonest feel comes from Michals' constantly "on" personality. A few peeks at a real person emerge (mostly in the parts where he's busy staging and photographing), but mostly one gets the impression that Michals' life is a series of carefully constructed fa├žades.

Without presuming the age/experience of the director, Duane Michals: The Man Who Invented Himself plays like a well-intentioned, respectful yet vaguely conceived student film. One of its several misbegotten segments has Michals animatedly describing various past photographs to a rapt younger man, who is never identified and not seen elsewhere in the film. While most viewers would logically wonder Who is this guy?, this film is content to move on and presume that nobody should care about the ancillary figures in Michals' life. That's the problem - for a documentary purporting to offer a glimpse into a great photographer's mind, its message is littered with too many Who is this guy? moments.


The DVD:


Video

This digitally photographed doc has been given a solid 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen for the DVD edition from Alive Mind and Kino Lorber. The crisp, subtly varied imagery shows a little more detail than what would be expected at DVD resolution, with pleasant skin tones and a lifelike color palette. The examples of Michals' monochrome photography shown in the film look as if they were taken from professionally scanned sources.

Audio

A single 2.0 Stereo mix is the sole provided soundtrack option. It sounds very clean, with not a lot of echo or distortion getting in the way of the main spoken-word component. No subtitles or alternate audio are included.

Extras

The sole bonus content is a Stills Gallery of shots from the film, along with a Trailer.

Final Thoughts

Duane Michals is a well-regarded figure in conceptual art photography, although you'd never know it from the eccentric treatment he gets in the documentary The Man Who Invented Himself. Filled with pointless play-acting scenes and endless shots of Michals talking to himself, this fragmented portrait frustrates with an artificial, non-revealing approach. Skip It.



Matt Hinrichs is a designer, artist, film critic and jack-of-all-trades in Phoenix, Arizona. Since 2000, he has been blogging at Scrubbles.net. 4 Color Cowboy is his repository of Western-kitsch imagery, while other films he's experienced are logged at Letterboxd. He also welcomes friends on Twitter @4colorcowboy.

Popular Reviews
1. Barry Lyndon
2. Rawhead Rex
3. My Neighbor Totoro (GKIDS Release)
4. The Ghoul
5. The Beguiled
6. Junior Bonner
7. Children Of The Corn
8. Dreamgirls: Director's Extended Edition
9. Ernie Kovacs: Take A Good Look: The Definitive Collection
10. Spirited Away


Sponsored Links
DVD Blowouts
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Alien [Blu-ray]
Buy: $19.99 $9.99
8.
9.
10.
Sponsored Links
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Copyright 2017 DVDTalk.com All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use