Alice Neel

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Reviews Counted: 16

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Average Rating: 4/5

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Movie Info

Portrait painter Alice Neel (1900-1984) was a self-described collector of souls who recorded her sitters on canvas through six decades of the 20th century, among them Andy Warhol, Bella Abzug, Allen Ginsberg and Annie Sprinkle. Neel always sought the "authentic," moving from Greenwich Village to Spanish Harlem just as the Village was gaining reputation in the art scene. She sacrificed almost everything for her art, delving so far into the psyches of her sitters she would almost lose herself. Yet Neel was also a dedicated mother, raising two sons in the bohemian world she inhabited.

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Critic Reviews for Alice Neel

All Critics (16) | Top Critics (9)

  • There's much pungent detail on offer here, chronicling Neel's unorthodox lifestyle in Cuba and Spanish Harlem, and the struggles she had in an era when abstract painting was triumphant; all of which is given a little more edge than you might expect.

    May 22, 2009 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Andrew Pulver

    Top Critic
  • The finely crafted Alice Neel is at once tribute, investigative journalism and messy family drama.

    Sep 12, 2008 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • There is a great deal more to Alice's story: the avant-garde of the 1920s; the government's support of artists during the Great Depression; the feminist movement of the 1970s, during which she became an icon. This rich film captures it all.

    May 16, 2008 | Rating: 4/4
  • If the artist is an elusive target, the art is as sharp as a razor blade. The portraits are extraordinary.

    Apr 18, 2008 | Full Review…
  • So many people speak onscreen, from so many folds of Neel's life, that, despite captions, the viewer feels taxed to keep straight their identities and relationships to Neel.

    Jan 25, 2008 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • For all the juicy storytelling, Alice Neel remains, in this film, a cipher: brash, grandmotherly, and beyond understanding.

    Aug 24, 2007 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Alice Neel

I like a lot of Neel's work, so I enjoyed this. The documentary has something to say to anyone, regardless of your feeling about Alice Neel or her work. Fascinating, disturbing, and inspirational, all at once.

Morris Nelms
Morris Nelms

Super Reviewer

[font=Trebuchet MS][size=3]Alice Neel is one of the best films of the year, and surely will be a top contender for the Best Documentary Oscar.[/size][/font] [img][/img] [size=3][font=Trebuchet MS]I walked out of the theater on cloud 9. It was as if the spirit of Alice Neel, who’s been dead for some years now, reached out from the screen and wrapped her loving arms around all of us. Her spirit filled the theater.[/font][/size] [size=3][font=Trebuchet MS]Her grandson, who made the film, has given her an astonishingly beautiful and serious tribute. It doesn’t romanticize unduly. Neel’s failings are put clearly on the table. Her parenting skills, for example, were to some degree deplorable. Her sons talk on camera a lot, and while it’s perfectly clear that they loved her tremendously, their anger about certain things is also transparent. A particularly ugly episode had her turning a blind eye while a boyfriend of hers was recurringly abusive toward one of her sons.[/font][/size] [size=3][font=Trebuchet MS][img][/img][/font][/size] [size=3][font=Trebuchet MS]The film doesn't just talk about her life. It also is a sumptuous artistic feast. Something on the order of 100 paintings are photographed carefully, so you can sit back and revel in these gorgeous and sometimes painful paintings, as the speakers talk. The music is also beautiful and fits wonderfully with the visuals.[/font][/size] [size=3][font=Trebuchet MS]It's not a perfect film though. I did feel in the middle that it was wandering around unsure of where it was going. But it eventually gets itself back on track.[/font][/size] [size=3][font=Trebuchet MS]One particularly noteworthy thing about Neel as an artist is how she spurned the art establishment and never did any hobnobbing. She left Greenwich Village (which was the epicenter of painting in the 1950s) and moved to Spanish Harlem “to paint real people” and to dwell with them. She was such a committed artist, that she wouldn’t cater to the art establishment. It was all about the painting for her, not the building of a career. I found that ferocious integrity to be inspiring.[/font][/size] [size=3][font=Trebuchet MS]In the end she did become a star, but only in her last decade of life. There’s one amazing scene where Andy Warhol himself bursts into the room to shower her with praise and kisses. She appeared to know him personally by that time and to adore him. But oddly, at no time in the film is his name even mentioned. In fact she never talked about other artists at all, and it doesn’t appear she ever went to see other people’s work. She stayed in and around her uptown apartment painting people from the neighborhood day and night.[/font][/size] [size=3][font=Trebuchet MS]She said painting was “an obsession” for her.[/font][/size] [size=3][font=Trebuchet MS]If there’s one art-house film you see this year, make it Alice Neel.[/font][/size]

William Dunmyer
William Dunmyer

Super Reviewer

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