Favorite Documentaries (The Artsy Fartsy Version)

recently decided to cut my weekly fast food budget in half and purchase some DVDs to decorate my paltry shelves. With these purchases I not only frequented an independent distributing company (commence patting on back), but I also grabbed some pretty cool DVDs in the process. One DVD that stood out from the pack was a documentary that I had watched several times before: Exit Through the Gift Shop. This great documentary that takes a peek at a street artist’s process all while giving you a is it real or is not plot got me thinking about other documentaries that sneak a peak behind the scenes. So without further ado, here is my list of five great documentaries that show the secret side of artists.

5. Burden of Dreams (dir. Les Blank)

Werner Herzog. Klaus Kinski. Their relationship was tumultuous to say the least. But their ability to make art together was enviable to a lame non-creative person like me. The crowning achievement of their creative lives was a cursed film called Fitzcarraldo. From the very beginning of the shoot, Herzog has mountains of problems (including moving a mountain…) that makes the filming of the picture more and more impossible with each passing day. Everything was captured during production and made into this cautionary tale. It is a beautifully put together documentary that makes showcases the crazy drive that a person needs in order to make such masterpieces.

4. Don’t Look Back (dir. D. A. Pennebaker)

Bob Dylan’s epic tour of 1965 not only changed music forever, but it also changed documentary filmmaking forever. Taking the fly on the wall approach (called cinema verite, if you are looking to pretentious terms), Mr. Pennebaker follows Mr. Dylan as he deals with his constant entourage, tons of screaming fans, shitty interviews and creative crises. He sings, he broods, and he always smokes. This is a truly epic documentary made up of very small intimate moments that show you a side of a musical god that you will never see again.

3. Exit Through The Gift Shop (dir. Bansky)

I love to watch art being made. I especially love watching graffiti art being made. So while this film is about the art of deception and manipulation, I really just love it because I get to watch extremely famous graffiti artists make their art. That and Bansky is funny. (He is definitely high on the list of famous people who I want to have a drink and a talk with)

2. Henri Langlois: Phantom of the Cinematheque (dir. Jacques Richard)

I have sung the praises of this film many times before, but I do really love this film. The film shows one man’s intense love of film and the need to preserve them. Because of this lovely man, we have things like The Library of Congress Film Archive and the Criterion Collection. He showed the importance of preserving films for future generations to see just by having tons of screenings every night. This film not only tells you about Henri’s life, it also shows how a dedicated man can amass so many prints, found a museum and fight to keep it alive and thriving. He was a cool man.

1. Crumb (dir. Terry Zwigoff)

Robert Crumb is a fascinating man with an even more fascinating style. His quirks and his mannerisms cannot be hidden from his art making. In this documentary, you watch Mr. Crumb create sketches, drawings and story lines from his everyday life. You see how silly little sketches he did with his brother when they were younger ended up making him the artist he is today. It is a fascinating character study.

Well, there you have it. Now go out and create some art… and don’t forget to film it.

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