“Finding Vivian Maier” 2013 – John Maloof, Daniel Arnaud, Vivian Maier. Poster credit: imdb.com
Directed by: John Maloof and Charlie Siskel
Our take: This one is a gem!
The wife and I are not opposed to documentaries it is just difficult to find one that does not encourage us to reach for a bottle of hooch and some anti-depressants. Sure; when confronted with the choice of watching a documentary or folding the unending peaks of laundry the documentary is usually at the losing end. In other words, inspiring documentaries are few and far between. Enter Finding Vivian Maier.
Precisely how we chose this movie remains obscured by crappy movie trailers and unyielding prides. Both of us swear it was our own idea. (Perish the thought I should have a good idea). Anyhow, we began watching it with the mild trepidation that comes with the thoughts, “What if this movie is a stinker? Will I be blamed? Can the laundry wait one more day?” Soon after Maloof began narrating his story those thoughts vanished.
Maloof begins the tale of his quest to find Vivian Maier at an auction where he purchases roll upon roll of film, volume after volume of photos and mounds of documents that belonged to Vivian Maier. “Who the Sam Hill is Vivian Maier,” you ask. Excellent query young grasshopper; that is the precise question Maloof had when he gazed upon Maier’s forgotten photographs.
We have always felt documentaries are movies that use accurate and un-retouched images of people and places in an attempt to convey precise information. The purpose of a documentary’s unforgiving grasp on fact is to inform, enlighten or to strike a raw nerve. Finding Vivian Maier is lusciously different in that the movie is about Maier’s stark pictures of everyday scenes; a movie composed of and about still images. This was, for lack of a better description, a movie about powerful images and the images in this movie provide so much to talk and think about. As Maloof discovers, Maier was a nanny whose true passion was stalking the world, camera in hand and looking into the beauty of everyday life we have come to ignore. Each of these photos is truly worth thousands and thousands of words to discuss with yourself or your favorite couch-mate. The conversations are endless.
We enjoy bantering back and forth over hot coffee, warm tempura or cold mint chocolate-chip ice cream (not all mixed together of course) and Finding Vivian Maier gave us subjects aplenty. Still, whatever our disagreement about what Maier was trying to share or show with her photos we firmly agreed her message had unmistakable force. In the end we found a message about art and how it surrounds us everywhere if only we will stop long enough to engage it, to step into it and feel it brush up against us.
Now that we have gushed lovingly over the splendor of Finding Vivian Maier let us not leave you with any delusions. If it was one thing about art and artists the wife and I both agree on it is that profoundly moving art will eventually take a toll on the artist. Vivian Maier was no exception.
Maier was an odd person who had no qualms about her oddities. Her photos are tender and poignant but she herself was far from being a warm, inviting person. Maier could see the joy and emotion in everyone around her but she never could seem to find that for herself. As a nanny children constantly surrounded her yet she had none of her own and did not seem to want any. This disconnect between what Maier was able to capture for humanity and what she could not embrace for herself is part of the discovery of Vivian Maier. She seems to have given all of herself to her art and would later find she had nothing left to give to anyone else.
We will not spoil the ending for you because that is a task only Maloof and Maier can complete accurately enough. What we can say is that this movie is inspirational for anyone that may feel their voice, eye or ear is not good enough to share with the world. Vivian Maier teaches us that ALL voices, eyes and ears are worth sharing.