My Art is a gorgeous movie, not just starring but also written and directed by visual artist Laurie Simmons. Although the movie has minimal narrative beyond Ellie's relationship with her new friends and her efforts in trying to complete her project, the movie is deeply compelling thanks to all of Simmons' gorgeous compositions and interesting visual flights of fancy, as well as her impressive performance in the lead role. It is perhaps rare to find a movie that feels so precisely crafted these days, with each shot and composition dazzling the viewer, boldly and subtly.
In terms of visual spectacle, there might be an inclination to look at Simmons' recreation of several famous movie scenes as the "big" flourishes of My Art, but while these are good -- capturing a range of films from Jules and Jim to A Clockwork Orange -- it's actually the casual stuff that tends to capture the imagination. Right from the beginning, a sequence of Ellie walking through a museum, there's a dynamism to the cinematography, capturing angles and particular compositions that makes the camera feel as alive as Ellie is. In another scene, two characters hands are seen writing information down in addition to talking about it, instead of showing their faces. Simmons tends toward longer, unbroken takes, prefers to move the camera to find a new angle rather than cut to one, locating symmetry and visual poetry within the image.
Character-wise, the film is also compelling, with Clohessy and Rothman forming an unusual romantic triangle with Ellie in which both men quietly vie for her attention. On-screen, the Ellie character calls out the way the two men sometimes talk about her as if she's not there, and then she leaves, resulting in a scene, crafted by Simmons, in which the men talk about her in her absence that feels framed through her perspective. Simmons quietly touches on what feels like insecurities, in the way Meryl, and Ellie's friend (Blair Brown) seem breathlessly busy, making Ellie's freedom to go on vacation seem like a backhanded compliment. When Meryl and Ellie talk about the good times they had as teacher and student, Meryl reflects not on Ellie's advice or wisdom, but her end-of-semester pizza party.
Structurally, the film has a light touch, drifting in and out of the recreations of classic films that make up Ellie's project and the "real-world" narrative. The movie feels both breezy and substantive, packing various character beats and art sequences into a brisk 87 minutes. More than anything, the element that ties it all together is not so much in the writing, editing, or story, but in the basic warmth and humanity of the movie, which bursts with humor and deftly observed emotion. If the title of My Art represents a promise, it certainly feels like one that Simmons has fulfilled.
The Video and Audio
Trailers for Bad Lucky Goat, Shadowman, Moka, and Film Movement World Cinema play before the main menu.