Published Mar 06, 2009The "guest" of this highly watchable documentary is co-director Paul Hasegawa-Overacker, who starting in the early '80s, produced an irreverent New York cable access TV show that took the piss out of the pretentious Manhattan art scene.
Paul H-O, as he calls himself, never fit in with the art establishment because he treated the scene with — God forbid — humour. His lack of respect (or pretension) was enough to inspire Julian Schnabel to call his show "shit" to his face, which I'm sure Paul H-O wears as a badge of honour.
So, it was surprising and unlikely that this art misfit would hook up with the most enigmatic and successful of American photographers: Cindy Sherman. Sherman is famous for making self-portraits where she portrays someone else: a Hollywood star, a battered wife, an Elizabethan monarch, but never herself. In the '70s, she became a feminist hero by throwing back into the media's face its limited depictions of the fairer sex. So, it's a coup that Paul H-O would interview the reclusive Sherman on camera being nobody but Sherman. And it's downright shocking that he would become her live-in lover for five years.
There lies the problem. As the "guest of Cindy Sherman," Paul H-O would frequently be cropped out of magazine photos with his lover and ignored at her openings. Though it takes a long time to establish this, the theme of being the "wife" of a famous woman lies at the heart of this first-person film. It illustrates how far women have risen in the art world and how women have advanced in Western society in general.
Problem is that the film, like Paul H-O's relationship with Sherman, ends abruptly and the viewer is not entirely clear what caused it. It's also unclear just where the movie is going until well past the midpoint: is it about Paul H-O, Sherman or the both of them together? The answer is yes to all, which weakens the film, though it remains entertaining, energetic and smart. (Filmlike)