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maryann johanson, not crying

A Woman Like That (review)

Forget movies about art as you’ve seen them before. Award-winning documentary filmmaker Ellen Weissbrod takes a compellingly intimate tack in her look at the convention-busting 17th-century artist Artemisia Gentileschi, who was trained by her father, Orazio, a renowned follower of Caravaggio, and still, to this day, finds her work both celebrated for its distinctive spirit and artistry and simultaneously challenged: No woman could have done such beautiful work, too many argue, so it must have been done by a man. Weissbrod blends her own experience as an artist with Gentileschi’s — via the testimony of art experts and Gentileschi’s own words in documents from her time — to create an extraordinary synthesis that is part art appreciation, part personal diary, and all very moving and powerfully revealing about what it means to be a woman alive in the world, today and four hundred years ago. Taking direct inspiration from a woman who was shocking — for what she painted (a realistic female breast!), for the fact that she painted at all, for how she cultivated a public image for herself that she controlled — Weissbrod connects the past to the present, exploring issues of confidence and personal power in ways we rarely see discussed anywhere. (If male artists experience the same timidity and hesitation Weissbrod admits to, they certainly don’t talk about it which such gleeful abandon.) With contributions from all sorts of women, from scholars and art collectors to museum goers and students, this is a provocative and unexpected look at how art speaks to us, even across the centuries. (Weissbrod takes a unique tack in getting her film seen, too: It’s showing at museums and universities. Upcoming screenings include March 5 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC; and March 17 at York University in Toronto, and April 10 at the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio. See the film’s official site for complete screening info.)

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: not rated

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