In 1976, William Eggleston?s hallucinatory, Faulknerian images were featured in the Museum of Modern Art?s first one-man exhibition of color photographs. It is rare for an artist of such stature to allow himself to be sho... more »wn as unguarded as Eggleston does in Michael Almereyda?s intimate portrait. The filmmaker tracks the photographer on trips to Kentucky, LA and NY, but gives particular attention to downtime in Memphis, Eggleston?s home base. The film shows a deep connection between Eggleston?s enigmatic personality and his groundbreaking work.« less
Mediahound | SF Bay Area, CA United States | 03/16/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Given the source material I would have edited this project much differently. There are a lot of shots where Eggleston is just sitting there doing nothing but thinking, or walking around the streets not really photographing. The viewer gleens surprisingly little into Eggleston's photographic techniques or motivations. We do gleen a bit into his psyche and demons (substance abuse) through interviews with Eggleston and his friends, and narration by the filmmaker.
As a professional photographer, I learned something about what makes Eggleston tick, but probably only as much as he wanted me to learn, certainly more so than I would have without watching this DVD.
So, this DVD is not completely worthless but it reallly could have been a lot better. You do get to see many of William Eggleston's photos not just in the main show but also a few (not an abundance though) in the extras on the DVD."
William H. Boling Jr. | Atlanta, GA U | 08/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am very biased in favor of anything that would bring the extraordinary work of Mr. Eggleston to a wider audience - still please trust me when I say that this film is a remarkable acheivement and a riveting experience and would be even if I knew nothing of Mr. Eggleston's art.
Mr. Almereyda has tricked the ultimate trickster into revealing more of himself than one might have thought possible. Not since Duchamp has anyone delivered the artistic goods with correspondingly well targeted mockery of the 'received wisdoms' of art and photography as Mr. Eggleston. He is a master of misdirection and inscrutible yet unfailingly potent verbal and visual renderings.
So when I heard that someone had set out to produce a documentary on the subject it was a little like hearing that I should step outside if I wanted to watch a neighbor catch a greased pig. I wasn't expecting we would be enjoying pork chops for dinner but I knew there would be quite a show. Mr. Almereyda's film delivers the show and the bacon.
First, the show - Mr. Eggleston's eccentric and loving world of family and friends are photogenic and interesting. They are presented as they are without much fuss and caught in media res. We begin the film by simply ambling along with Mr. Eggleston and his son Winston as they trip over pictures that suggest and offer themselves to Mr. Eggleston, falling as it were into the campfire of his vision like so many moths from the real world looking for that something more. By following this work in the field we get to see and know the craftsman in his primary state -- someone who is out in the world looking and searching still. This allows us more ease as we move into other aspects of his family life and career. This early field work set up helps especially when we're presented with his dialogues which Mr. Eggleston intends (as with the statements of Jasper Johns, Duchamp or some Zen master) to enlighten through confusion and the confounding of the irrational nature of "the real world".
Second, the bacon -- where Mr. Almereyda's work acheives its greatest insight is in revealing Mr. Eggleston's complex yet fundamentally loving nature. A man who despite a well groomed and tended reputation as an enfant terrible is tender to and with all those we see encountered from the very close -- his wife, son, and close friends to the most casual encounters. Witness his thoughtful reassurance to the shopkeeper who offers to move the pinata he wants to photograph -- in reassuring tones he congratulates her on how she's positioned the thing -- he says she's got it just right.
Ultimately, I think that is the bacon -- Mr. Egglston is revealed as a great lover of the world and all that's in it -- even with all the suffering and strife and odd-ball visual awkwardness he sees and presents to us a world that whether we recognize it or not "is just right"."
S. Jacobs | New England | 05/12/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw a pre-release, rough draft version of the film at the Harvard Film Archives in 2004. I thought it was an illuminating and intimate view into the life of an important American artist. I feel the scenes in which Eggleston is walking and looking, as well as his partiality for liquor and the various high and low social realms he comfortably navigates are essential: they give the audience of this documentary a unique insight into the plausible mechanics that make Eggleston, and his imagery, what they are."
I wanted to like it, but alas...
Ronald Cowie | Las Vegas, Nevada | 06/17/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this to show my class and found it both a little boring and sad. Yes, Eggleston is a national treasure but he also is a train wreck. The documentary is not very revealing and what it reveals really isn't that interesting. I got through this once but haven't watched it again. I like looking at his work but really didn't learn anything from this."
Happy to have not been born in the Middle Ages before there
Alan Teder | 12/08/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This was a film that grew on me, as it started out very boring and became more interesting as time went on. Director/Cameraman Michael Almereyda starts by following Eggleston and his assistant/son Winston as they wander around Mayfield, Kentucky on a commission from Gus Van Sant to shoot photographs. Almereyda's hand-held camera shakes and picks up the wind and all sorts of extraneous noises while Eggleston barely says anything and when he does, it needs sub-titling to help you make it out. They then make their way home to Memphis, Tennessee and stop off at a ruined house for sale by the side of the road, which is advertised as a "real fixer-upper", and suddenly you start seeing the beauty of the things that Eggleston is seeing in the damaged green roof or the patterns of sunlight on the dusty floors. Soon you are at home with him where he does some amateur improvisations on his electronic keyboard and piano.
Then he takes you along on a trip to visit his girl-friend Leigh Haslip. Eggleston has been quite happily married to his wife Rosa for 40 years, and she must just humour his occasional philandering as she later describes him and his family as "He's sweet, all the Egglestons are sweet, it's in their genes". At Haslip's house, Eggleston sketches a free-form portrait while Haslip herself rather drunkenly rambles and lounges on a couch in her pajamas. Eggleston is still not saying a lot, but you are gradually liking him more and more, as you realize this is an artist with no pretensions whatsoever. He is what he is and he does what he does and he doesn't care about having to explain himself or his work to you at all. You can take it or leave it.
For the rest of the film you follow along on a few more trips such as to the Getty Museum in LA where Eggleston walks around rather anonymously at his own photographic exhibit. You get to view a few clips from Eggleston's own black and white experimental video film "Stranded in Canton" (1973/74 - completed 2005). There is a single scene towards the end where Almereyda finally tries to get Eggleston pinned down to talk art and photography with provocations such as "real life is an illusion. photographs are the reality", but Eggleston protests and disagrees and says that he doesn't understand what Almereyda is talking about. So you never get any answers or explanations from Eggleston himself.
When the credits role at the end with the sound of Roy Orbison's beautiful singing of the song "In the Real World" you are back again at Leigh Haslip's house where both she and Eggleston are gleefully enjoying the song on the stereo while they talk about how happy they are to have not been born in the Middle Ages before there was Roy Orbison. And I'm just as happy to have not been born before there were the photographs of William Eggleston and this film by Michael Almereyda."