This way of assembling images that disturb in order to provoke examination is also the subject of Wim Wenders’ remarkable new documentary “Anselm,” which screened immediately following McQueen’s film. A sister film of sorts to 2011’s celebrated “Pina,” this latest film provides a fascinating, and at times breathtaking, look at German artist Anselm Kiefer.
My knowledge of art is woefully negligent, and I admit total ignorance when it comes to this iconoclastic painter, sculptor, woodcutter and bookmaker. From the opening shots we are treated to surreal images of costuming, as white, wedding dress-like gowns are scattered in a sunny wood, each with various forms of distress added to them. There’s barbed wire and grass, large metal hoops crowning like a robotic head, and large shards of glass that cut into the material in viscerally impactful ways. We see Kiefer riding his bike in a hanger-like workshop, actual full-sized aircraft parts the constituent pieces of several of his installations. The canvases themselves are jaw-dropping, multi-story sized affairs requiring scissor lifts to navigate. It’s downright bonkers to see how these paintings and sculptures come together, and we get not only a sense of the immense scale but also the intricacies and textures of these monumental works.
As the film unfolds, we’re treated to recreations of several moments of Kiefer’s life, the youngest played by Wenders’ son, the middle-aged version played by Kiefer’s own progeny. It should all feel a bit trite, but somehow the mix of tones perfectly reflects the mixed media of Kiefer’s own work. Wenders manages to surpass “Pina” with this even more remarkable portrait of an artist as a young, middle-aged and older man, using the very tools of Kiefer’s art to extend our understanding of how they’re made and to allow us who haven ‘t had the privilege to experience the compound-like art studio complex in cinematically rewarding ways.
And finally, another film unapologetically long, especially in the puerile sense, was the newly minted “Ultimate Cut” of “Caligula”. The original release in 1979 was the stuff of legend, and the title card reminds of comments like “moral holocaust” levied against it, and where screenwriter, director, and even composer sued to have their names taken off release. Thomas Negovan has gone back to the original camera negatives and managed to craft what is claimed to be a closer version of Gore Vidal’s original script, eschewing the additional hardcore pornography that the film’s producer Bob Guccione, he of Penthouse Magazine fame, added back then to try and generate some income from the debacle.