So you wish to learn about Rene Magritte?
Huldren | 05/15/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Go elsewhere. The product information on amazon.com tells us that this documentary is from the year 2000, but it's actually from the late 1970s. Only the DVD release is from the year 2000. The documentary itself is like a time capsule from the late 1970s; it's boring, filled with people with bad haircuts, and it doesn't teach you a heck of a lot about Rene Magritte.
In a documentary about an artist you'd probably expect to see plenty of said artist's work. To be fair, many of Magritte's paintings are displayed here, but they're presented in such an incapable manner that you can't view them properly. For instance, a technique used repeatedly throughout this documentary is to make two paintings transparent and then have them glide through each other. Now I'm sure this seemed fresh and funky back in the 1970s, but today most of us who watch art documentaries want to see the actual ART. Another problem with the film is that most of Magritte's work goes uncommented. It's certainly difficult to analyse surrealist art, but some effort should've been made to link this artist to the main surrealist movement. I for one was curious to see how Andre Breton had viewed Magritte's art, and I'm still guessing.
In a documentary that lasts for about an hour you'd probably also expect to learn a bit about the artist and what made him tick. According to this documentary, Rene Magritte was a private man; so much so that most of the footage on the DVD doesn't concern him at all. For example, the narrator tells us that Magritte was fascinated by the race track, and so for the next few minutes we watch a race track from the 1970s. The scene doesn't provide any information on the artist -- it's just three or four minutes in silence watching horses run around. When the narrator tells us that Rene Magritte went to art school, the following minutes are spent in silence watching people from the late 1970s doing sketches. My estimate is that if you cut out all the footage that isn't relevant to Rene Magritte, you'd have about 20 or 25 minutes left on the original hour.
All in all, this isn't a terribly interesting film. You can find out more about the man himself from reading a short article on the web. In fact, you'd probably learn more, and you wouldn't be as bored. The two stars are for the music the director chose, which fits in beautifully with the little we see of Magritte's paintings. It's also fun that they've chosen to animate some of his pictures. However, it's not enough to elevate the rest of the documentary.
I wish someone had warned me before I went and bought it."