Guest of Cindy Sherman (2008)
Guest of Cindy Sherman (2008) Directed by Paul H.O.; Tom Donahue
While there are certainly more cogent and insightful art documentaries, this one does, admittedly, have an interesting angle. Cindy Sherman (”Untitled Film Stills”), the world famous photographer specializing in photos featuring herself in various costumes and disguises that comment on the nature of/societal views on womanhood. Over the years, some of Sherman’s work has been controversial, including angry displays of mutilated and sexually posed dolls, depictions of violent rape and degradation, and pieces incorporating excrement and throw-up to create various designs. Paul Hasegawa Overbacker (or Paul H.O. as he is called) was also an artist in the 80s, but came to start a cable access show in NYC in 1993 called Gallery Beat. He and his partner (artnet.com editor) Walter Robinson would go to various art galleries, shows, openings, exhibits, and interview artists and comment on their work and the overall Soho art scene. The footage we see from Gallery Beat in the documentary is, on the whole, of pretty poor quality, and the show itself seems amateurish at best, though this was definitely the cable access underground aesthetic of the time, and Robinson and H.O. were a consistent voice during a dire time for art. Paul H.O. got to know the normally camera shy Cindy Sherman during the course of interviewing her. Her publicist and friends were somewhat amazed she was allowing herself to be filmed by this little cable access show because she regularly turned down interview requests from major media outlets. The two developed a relationship and the film is, essentially, about how Paul came to lose his identity while sharing his life with this rich, famous artist for five years. According to H.O., Sherman became more bothered by his project the more it grew and became apparent that there was an actual possibility it would actually be seen by audiences. The film explores topics like sexism by postulating on why it’s more acceptable for a woman to play second fiddle to a more professionally accomplished partner. H.O. and co-director Tom Donahue interview John Waters, Molly Ringwald (and “no name” husband Panio Gianopolous); Eric Bogosian; David Furnish (”no name” husband of Elton John); Christine Vachon; Carol Kane; Jeanne Tripplehorn; and Gabby Hoffman (who was Sherman’s stepdaughter from a previous marriage). We see Julian Schnabel act like a jerk (big surprise) and Tracy Emin (early in her career) do the same. Other artists like Eric Fischl (and “no name” artist wife April Gornik) are interviewed as well, and they provide perspective on Paul and Cindy, and the world in which they lived. Sherman also directed the film Office Killer(1997), and thus the connection to Tripplehorn, Kane, and Ringwald.