Portrait photographer Elsa Dorfman found her medium in 1980: the larger-than-life Polaroid Land 20x24 camera. For the next thirty-five years she captured the "surfaces" of those who visited her Cambridge, Mass studio: families, Beat poets, rock stars, and Harvard notables. As pictures begin to fade and her retirement looms, Dorfman gives Errol Morris an inside tour of her backyard archive.
I'm a huge fan of Errol Morris (one of my own films, Grant Hart - Every Everything: The Music, Life and Times of Grant Hart, was shot as an homage to his Fog of War), and having just watched the blissful "The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography" I might go as far as to say it's his subtle masterpiece. Easily the best documentary I've seen in a few years. It is pitch perfect, charming, touching, and beautiful, much like the subject and her amazing images. LOVE this movie!
I saw this delightful little film at our local "art house" cinema this weekend. It's a light, airy but entertaining work from Errol Morris, who apparently is actually a friend of the film's subject, Elsa Dorfman. Elsa Dorfman is a photographer of some renown, who truly carved a niche for herself when she began doing portraits on the amazing large format Polaroids. She's now staring retirement in the face because Polaroid is no longer making the film she needs. Morris has caught her at a time of looking back, of reflection on her career and life. She's a bit melancholy but also cheerful. Dorfman is just an interesting subject to spend time with. She's a delightfully quirky lady who offers refreshingly honest and unpretentious observations about art (mostly hers). This is not a philosophical film...it's more about capturing the life and enthusiasms of a well-known, if not quite famous, photographer. That she happened to be great friends with many Beat artists, particularly Ginsberg, is an added plus, because she has some delightful stories to share.
This is an easy, conversation movie about art, an artist, and the life of an artist. It's not glamorous, but it also doesn't wallow in "oh, the suffering one must endure for art." Dorfman is a practical person. Morris gently prods her for insights...but there's nothing here that's too biting or cutting. We get to see lots of her portraits, and many are indeed delightful. This was a feel-good movie...brisk and breezy and nice to look at. I do very much recommend it.