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Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe

Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe (2007)

tomatometer

84

Average Rating: 6.5/10
Reviews Counted: 19
Fresh: 16 | Rotten: 3

Vital documentation of an unsung 70's art patron and his famous photographer lover. A vivid and tragic story.

80

Average Rating: 6.2/10
Critic Reviews: 10
Fresh: 8 | Rotten: 2

Vital documentation of an unsung 70's art patron and his famous photographer lover. A vivid and tragic story.

audience

68

liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 448

My Rating

Movie Info

After serving in the Navy during World War II, Sam Wagstaff came home to New York City and pursued a career in advertising, and through his work in the ad game he developed a keen interest in photography. Reflecting his own personal evolution as he came to accept his homosexuality, Wagstaff became an enthusiastic collector of art photography and gained a reputation as a curator, organizing a number of important museum shows of new photographers and becoming a friend and confidante of artists

Apr 8, 2008

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All Critics (19) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (16) | Rotten (3) | DVD (1)

Crump's film colourfully depicts Wagstaff's complex inner mindset and rarefied eye for imagery by allowing the stunning prints to linger on the screen.

August 15, 2008 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The movie makes its main point. Wagstaff was an important, complex, fascinating figure, well worth remembering.

February 14, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
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Wagstaff's character accounts for some of the frustration the film induces. Crumb's documentary style accounts for the rest.

February 1, 2008 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
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Wagstaff was a fascinating figure and deserves the detailed tribute provided here.

October 19, 2007 Full Review Source: New York Daily News
New York Daily News
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A potent exercise in art-world mythography.

October 19, 2007 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
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Black White & Gray raises provocative questions but can't answer them, or even frame them with total clarity.

October 18, 2007 Full Review Source: Salon.com
Salon.com
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Crump's film is a vitally important document in this respect, bringing out Wagstaff's personality and vividly capturing the stories of the people who knew him.

August 15, 2008 Full Review Source: Shadows on the Wall
Shadows on the Wall

This is a terrific documentary by James Crump about the unsung collector, Wagstaff, and his lopsided relationship with his hungry young lover, Mapplethorpe.

August 15, 2008 Full Review Source: Times [UK]
Times [UK]

A well made portrait of an intriguing man, presented with a tragic but resounding weight.

August 15, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Let's hope this is the springboard for a biopic on the art world's dynamic gay duo - maybe by the time it gets made we'll even have some openly gay actors to play the parts.

May 22, 2008 Full Review Source: Windy City Times
Windy City Times

This ham-handed interpolation of irrelevant footage is the chief demerit of his movie.

October 22, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

The more famous Mapplethorpe is moved aside to give Sam Wagstaff the spotlight. But the best photography in the world steals the show.

October 19, 2007
Monsters and Critics

The film itself is staid in comparison to the descriptions of the '70s high life.

October 18, 2007 Full Review Source: Film-Forward.com
Film-Forward.com

Draws out the unseen riches that exist within what may otherwise appear typical or commonplace.

October 18, 2007 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Relatively tame retrospective about the relationship of a gay patron of the arts and his famous photographer lover best remembered for graphic, homoerotic snapshots featuring shocking sights like that of a bullwhip in a tight place.

October 16, 2007 Full Review Source: NewsBlaze
NewsBlaze

Audience Reviews for Black White + Gray: A Portrait of Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe

In cataloguing the relationship between art collector Sam Wagstaff and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, the documentary "Black White and Gray" does a good job of showing the role of the collector in the art world, especially Wagstaff who was very influential in shaping tastes, especially in the realm of photography. The emphasis is more on Wagstaff which is okay since so much has already been written about Mapplethorpe. Strangely enough on the subject of Mapplethorpe's photgraphy, the movie is oddly timid, going around in circles in desperately avoiding to admit the eroticism of the photographs. The same could be said about the details of the relationship.(Luckily, Patti Smith is on hand to fill in the blanks of how unique it was, with her actually being an equal partner.) Yes, it is possible that Mapplethorpe used Wagstaff but if that's the case, then I would agree that Wagstaff also used him, as like any relationship both partners had a profound effect on each other and on the wider art world.
October 4, 2011
Harlequin68
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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