American Artifact Merle Becker

American ArtifactMerle Becker
At one time or another, any self-respecting music fan has felt compelled to rip down a show poster and stash it at home, be it because of their favourite band's name having prominence, a wonderfully crafted image or both. Such is the modus operandi behind Merle Becker's independent venture, American Artifact, a feature-length documentary delving into the history of North American poster art. Becker wisely takes a back seat relating the poster's saga, keeping her mouth shut and camera open in order to catch history via the wisdom, opinions and interpretations of artists such as Rick Griffin, Coop, Frank Kozik, Lindsey Kuhn, Emek and many more. Wonderfully meticulous, inspired and enthusiastic, as only a heartfelt venture can be, the film begins with the original, simplistic, letter-pressed posters of the '50s and touches on virtually every aspect of the scene's growth over the ensuing decades. From the onslaught of psychedelic imagery that permeated San Francisco during the hippie revolution to the '80s, punk rock's embrace of photocopying, an eventual transition to silk-screening for art house-worthy creations, internet presence and speculation on the future, American Artifact is broad. Sadly, since it's strictly American in focus, omitting Canadian talents such as Derrin Merinuk, Matthew Daley, Seripop and others is a letdown to its overall impact, as is an overzealous appreciation creating an inevitable lack of critical objectivity to present alternate, possibly negative, views of this world. However, the fun is there, bolstered by an entire second disc dedicated to extras and deleted scenes. And it's necessary, as extended interviews offer even more insight, a silk-screening lesson provided for would-be contributors is amusing and showing various artists' take on creating a poster for the flick is pretty nifty too. While modestly idiosyncratic, American Artifact is informative and inspiring to artists, fans and musicians alike. This is a long-overdue appreciation of an important aspect of North America's musical and cultural heritage. (Freakfilms Inc.)