The Fancy | Chicago Reader

The Fancy

Elisabeth Subrin's 36-minute video about photographer Francesca Woodman is one of the best art documentaries I've ever seen. Woodman, who committed suicide at 22 (on the eve of Ronald Reagan's first presidential inauguration), has attracted some cult interest with her nude self-portraits, which conceal more than they reveal. But rather than present her work on camera, trying to encapsulate it in a few phrases and leaving the viewer with a false sense of understanding, Subrin describes Woodman's life in voice-over, panning over objects arranged to represent her possessions (clothing and shoes laid out corpselike in plastic bags), showing empty, ruined rooms, or using models to reenact her poses. With its taut imagery, the tape shows how distant and unfathomable another person's life can be and made me want to explore the mystery further through Woodman's photographs.

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