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FINDING VIVIAN MAIER (review)

finding_vivian_maierFINDING VIVIAN MAIER

Directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel

In 2007, when John Maloof spent $380 on a box of photo negatives, he had no idea that he was about to discover one of the greatest street photographers of the 20th century. After being astonished by the negatives he bought, Maloof narrowed the original owner’s name down to one, Vivian Maier. After compiling over 100,000 negatives of the late photographer’s work, Maloof set out to find out just who this brilliant, unknown artist was. The woman proves to be much more mysterious than Maloof could ever imagine. It is revealed (early on in the film, so no spoilers here) that Maier worked in Chicago as a nanny. She used different names, and different accents; even passed herself off as French. Through interviews with Maier’s former charges and their parents we learn that she was anything but a simple nanny. Maier was not only extremely cryptic, but she also had something of a dark side.

FindingVivianMaier

Maloof, along with co-director Charlie Siskel, crafts a wonderful, poignant documentary about this talented artist. FINDING VIVIAN MAIER is so fascinating that at times viewers may forget that they are watching a documentary, as the film often plays like a first-class mystery. One of the more intriguing elements is why Maier never shared any of her photos. Why would a person spend their whole life with a camera around their neck if they never meant for anyone to see the work they have done? This leads viewers to another tough question; what would Vivian Maier say about this film? Maier was a very private woman when living with the families she worked for; her room was always completely off limits. If she never shared her photos during her life, how would she feel about them now being shared with the world? The film addresses this question, but only very briefly.

FINDING VIVIAN MAIER is certainly one of the strongest documentaries I’ve seen in quite a long time. Not only do we get to learn about the life of this enigmatic woman, but we also get to see her beautiful photographs in grand display.

4.5 sheep

Your turn!

How many sheep would you give Finding Vivian Maier?

One Comment

  1. I think it was very smart of Maloof to address the moral ambiguity surrounding going public with her life’s work. It demonstrates that he at least gave it some thought before he made a name for himself while making her famous. I don’t want to question his intentions too much, as I would like to hope they’re innocent, and I suspect that they must be given how much work has gone into this project. All I know is that after watching the film, the two seem fated to have come into each other’s lives in the way that they did. From what people said in the film, Maier would not have liked this kind of attention. So perhaps this is what the universe had in mind for her work all along.

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