Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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Interesting look at a non-profit forger who, in his own words, "got addicted to philanthropy."
This film was released (in a limited run) before that one, but this is the Big Eyes without the financial gain (of the protagonist). A story of a master plagiarist who for many years put one, and another one, and another one, and another one, over on some of middle America's biggest and best museums and their respective curators.
Mark Landis is a genius at what he does. And like many have said in the past, with genius often comes the burden of torment to one extent or another. What is he a genius at? Well, he takes catalogues of famous paintings, photocopies them and recreates them to the smallest detail onto a copy of whichever canvas they were known to occupy. Then he contacts art museums around America, mainly middle America, he doesn't go too far north or too far south for whatever reason, and informs them that he has the original and would like to give it to them. And that's the catch. He donates them free of charge, saying they were left to him by wealthy relatives or by a recently deceased sister (which he doesn't have) or what have you. If they make it past the inspection of the curators, which they often do, up on display they go, a proud copy posing as the genuine article.
And by donating, rather than accepting money for them, Mark Landis isn't actually breaking any laws. He just happens to have this gift for art duplication and gets a rush from thinking that his work, his forgery, is being gawked at and admired by art students and connoisseurs the world over.
And a gift it is. There is seemingly no piece of art, regardless of age, style, colour or creed that he cannot duplicate with an amazing accuracy. So of course the question becomes, and is asked a number of times in the film, often point blank to his face, if he's such a good painter, why not do his own things and leave the dead's work alone. Which brings us to the underlying theme of the film, one almost as interesting, and certainly as poignant, as the forgeries themselves.
If you're an art fan, or just have a particular distaste for plagiarism, Mark Landis will probably not strike you as a very sympathetic individual. But as the film unfolds and we spend more and more time with him, such as in his cramped home. Overfilled with towers of books and papers in one room, and art supplies and frames and a bed and a sole, very outdated television in another, it becomes clear this man's top priority is not self care. That point is driven home as we accompany him on one of his many mental health check ups, where every worker asks him if he's been taking care of himself. Another case worker, one of his past ones, comes over on her free time once a week or so to check up on him in person, just because she worries about him.
Landis has had a rocky road psychologically, with nervous breakdowns, time spent in mental hospitals and diagnoses' of schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder and half a dozen other series mental illnesses handed down to him when he was just seventeen.
He lives alone, will likely die alone and the only significant relationship of his entire life seems to be the one with his beloved mother. A woman whom he adored and whose death a couple years before the film was shot seems to have spun him down a deeper hole of despair for a period from which, it becomes apparent fairly quickly, he has not fully recovered.
Does all this pardon him of his, as he calls it, mischief? From passing forgeries off as originals, often while dressing up as a priest to do so? I don't know. I'm not an art guy. I find the story interesting and amusing and couldn't care less if a cool painting was the true original or an awesome fake. If the fake looks as good as the original, who the hell cares? I mean other than Matthew Leininger, who for years obsessively made it his life's work to go after Landis the way Ness went after Capone.
Add to that the fact that Landis is at his core just a very nice man. He's polite, kind, unassuming, humble to a fault. His insistence that he isn't actually an artist because he just copies other people's work is not only amusing it's preposterous. A lot of these guys painted their pictures once. Landis has painted some of them dozens of times with nary a stroke out of place.
I couldn't help but be reminded throughout Art and Craft of another landmark film about a psychologically disturbed individual with great artistic talent. Terry Zwigoff's Crumb, about comic book drawing genius Robert R. Crumb is the perfect way to follow up an 'artists with issues' double feature (take note film clubs) and it was hard not to be continually reminded of Crumb when the camera peered into Landis' kind, broken souled eyes.
Art and Craft is about a man who is good at copying great works of art. And about a man who is good at pretending they're the real mccoy. But for me the film is also, perhaps truly, about two things: one, it's a picture of mental illness that is both sad and compelling, and two: it's a moral quandary. How wrong is what Landis is doing? He's deceiving people, yes, but he isn't gaining anything from it beyond perhaps the thrill of anonymous fame. He calls himself a philanthropist and isn't trying to cause grief and isn't breaking any laws. He just knows that he's got a gift for this particular form of artistry and it seems to give his life some purpose. I don't see the harm in that. After all, a little mischief never hurt anyone.
This was a fabulous documentary because it introduced me to Mark Landis. By the end of the movie I became so interested in this man. Who is Mark Landis? What motivates him? The bit that made me mad were those who wanted to cast judgement on him. Their questions...why not do your own work? The tone was...you ratbag!! The question is boring. I wanted to ask him, what inspires you? At least it is an open question giving him room to breathe.
This would have been great as a 60 minutes piece, but a full-fledged movie? No! Way too many non-essential (i.e. BORING) scenes.
This is an excellent documentary film. It is surprising in many ways and at times brought tears to my eyes. I think most people will love this film... not all but most.
Compelling documentary, though would have been interested to learn more about the subject matters family past (like how he has the means to do this and drive a new Cadillac, etc.) and also see more scenes in the techniques of how he does his artwork and paintings as well as the how to know from the fakes/forgeries from the real.
How the little town of Laurel MS fathered the forger who almost got away. A good documentary. Bona-fide art, is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder!
This is a remarkable documentary in which we learn about an artist / forger not through spoken narrative or interviews but through the camera following Mark Landis - at his care worker's office, at the supermarket, painting in his cramped apartment. The final product is one of such keen but humane observation that it's impossible to feel the kind of ill-feeling that seems to fire arrogant former Cincinnati museum worker Matt Leininger. It becomes, over a period of five years, Matt's obsessive goal to expose Landis and get him to stop. I kept asking myself why he wanted this. Even the art crime detective admitted that Landis had not committed any crime because he didn't ask for nor accept money for his "philanthropic" gifts. Mark admits that what he does gives him happiness - to be able to give something and be loved for it. He has obviously suffered from the loss of, first, his father and years later, his mother. You see a few mementos of their travels, their wedding photos. How does this lonely man cope? He does so through art. I sure hope Matt Leininger has left him alone and discovered compassionate understanding and focusses on his family. I also hope that Mark Landis will do what others at his exhibition suggested - that he should sell his work under his own name, but he needs support of the arts community. I was deeply touched by Mark's talent and his mischievous passion.
Such an interesting story and character. It may feel a little icky because we are kinda peering into the life of someone whom is mentally ill (some would argue two people), but the feeling quickly dissipates for me if only because Mark seems such an interesting person.
t times rather bland, at other times pretty interesting, Art and Craft is a mixed bag documentary about a unique individual who spends his life pretending to be someone he's not. With someone as fascinating as Mark Landis as a subject, you'd think this film would be more interesting than it is, but it didn't really work for me as well as it did for others. Directors Becker and Cullman walk a thin line between mocking this man, who clearly has some kind of disability, and highlighting him as someone to be admired, since he's a forger.
For me it never found a consistent tone that I could get on board with. Landis is very interesting to watch, because he is so strange, but at the same time, he can be very tiring to spend time with, because he is so grating. I'm not sure that Becker and Cullman could have done much different, I think it's just the nature of Landis' personality. Some of the forgery parts worked pretty well, but not enough to hold my interest throughout.
I didn't hate my journey with Landis, but I can't really recommend it either.