Gerhard Richter Painting Corinna Belz

Gerhard Richter Painting Corinna Belz
8
There's something uniquely fascinating about capturing the essence of an artist by watching them create. Corinna Belz's documentary, Gerhard Richter Painting, takes an untraditional approach to telling the story of the prolific titular artist by showing rather than telling. Following Richter over the span of two years, we watch as he interacts with art curators, his staff and, most importantly, we observe as he creates several of his abstract paintings from start to finish. Belz has managed to find a new way of making the act of creation visually compelling by simply propping her cameras in stationary positions, silently watching Richter at his most vulnerable amidst the anxious process of trying to get the paints and canvas to conform to his demanding vision. One would think watching a man smear large swaths of paint onto a canvas, only to drag oversized squeegees across the surface, would induce boredom, yet each swipe covers the old painting and reveals something new, while Richter's choices on how he alters the composition with each pass become curious and evocative. Just as you begin to wonder when the painting will be complete, he explains that "a painting is finished when there's nothing else left to do," clearly an indicator of the intricacy within the artist. Brief cuts to archival footage of the artist as a young man peal back an additional layer, allowing us a glimpse of where Richter came from and the influences that led him to where he is presently. One of the most incredible moments of the film comes when Richter voices his discontent at being watched as he creates, pointing out that it feels worse than when he was in the hospital, yet through it all he remains a good-natured subject. Belz doesn't dig deep to fully explain the artist, instead opting to highlight what's most relevant, which is both the act and attained result of his art. Special features on the DVD include an extended interview with an art historian and director's interview and commentary, as well as an extended behind-the-scenes look as Richter prepares for the opening of his Munich exhibit. (Mongrel Media)