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Louise BourgeoisReview - Louise Bourgeois
The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine
by Marion Cajori and Amei Wallach (Directors)
Zeitgeist Films, 2009
Review by Christian Perring
Jul 28th 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 31)

Louise Bourgeois is an extraordinary sculptor born in 1911 in Paris, who moved to New York City in the late 1930s, and had her first exhibit in 1947. She has been working for more than half a century, and has had major retrospectives in recent years.  She is best known for her giant spiders, but her work shows remarkable variety.  This documentary, first shown in 2008, shows Bourgeois at various times of her later life from the 1990s and in the early twenty first century, mostly in her own studio, talking to the filmmakers and interacting with her assistants.  It does not take a linear approach, but rather skips around in time.  The interactions between Bourgeois and the filmmakers are fairly casual, and are occasionally interrupted by a phone ringing or a noise in the background.  We see her often snap at the interviewers, becoming quite aggressive, and then calming down quickly.  She talks about her art and its meaning to her, sometimes in a rambling manner, but often passionately and with great clarity.  One of the persistent themes of the film is the relevance of Bourgeois' family history and especially her troubled relationship with her father for her art.  Other interviewees also comment on her frequent moodiness and her fragility, but nevertheless regard her with great warmth.  Her work started to be more appreciated in the 1970s and she has grown in status since then, and the documentary helps to show why this is.  It is visually and conceptually intriguing, mostly refusing to fall into easy categories, and it is full of emotional resonance.  The documentary also feels more like a patchwork of different interviews in different styles, and it is a pleasure to watch several times over.  Bourgeois' French accent is pleasing and the documentary is scored very carefully with evocative music, and these go a long way in enhancing the experience of watching it.  There are several extras on the DVD that are also very interesting, including 45 minutes of deleted scenes. 

 

© 2009 Christian Perring                  

    Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.


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