Beauty is Embarrassing
Directed by Neil Berkeley
It's incredible when a documentary unfolds organically without the need for voiceover commentary to steer its trajectory. This style gives a sense of natural narration that drives a story without overt pedagogy, which is the case of Neil Berkeley's Beauty is Embarrassing. Featuring a down-home country boy that plays the banjo and loves to yell, "Fuck it!," when not creating highly sought-after lithographs, it's obvious there's something thought-provoking about to unfold before our eyes.
The "good ol' boy" from Tennessee is Wayne White, a man that has become the darling of the fine art in-crowd, bringing comedy into a scene known for rarely embracing anything remotely resembling humour. Taking cheap landscape lithographs normally found in your local Goodwill store, White transforms them into "wordscapes," often bearing messages such as "I'll Smash This Painting Over Your Fucking Head" and "Fanfuckintastic."
The man behind the lewd paintings has a wild past that will appeal to the Generation-X crowd, having been the three-time Emmy Award-winning set creator for Pee-wee's Playhouse and even winning an MTV Moon Man for his art direction on the Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight Tonight" music video. With a slew of other Hollywood achievements under his belt, White has pretty much seen and done it all, and goes into great detail of his storied past.
Berkeley brought in the usual suspects for his documentary, interviewing the parents, friends, family and contemporaries of White to ensure a well-rounded portrait, but it was his former Pee-wee colleagues and Paul Reuben himself that provide the most fascinating insight.
Well-shot, well edited and incredibly entertaining, Beauty is Embarrassing epitomizes the belief that people should do what they enjoy most. And in the case of Wayne White, that has been following his passion for creating while not taking himself too seriously.
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