Finding Vivian Maier Review

Karen looks at an intriguing new documentary.

John Maloof didn’t know what he was getting himself into when he successfully bid on a box of negative photographs at a Chicago auction house in 2007. In the hopes of finding material for a historical book he was writing, Maloof made a life changing discovery.

Finding Vivian Maier is an intriguing and investigative documentary film that chronicles the many families and people that were a part of her life. Employed as a nanny in Chicago for over 40 years, children of all ages and personalities hold varying accounts of the slight and masculine looking woman. Families of all walks of life adopted Vivian into their homes with all her eccentricities including collecting newspapers.

Director and writer, John Maloof soon stumbles upon more of Vivian’s extensive collection of photographs, short home videos and audio recordings. His presence within the film is clear but not overly exaggerated. The filmmaker allows the subjects and interviews to speak candidly about their experiences with the extremely talented photographer. He admits himself if Vivian were alive today, would she want an exhibition of her work to travel the globe and receive critical acclaim in the art world? Probably not.

The contradictory stories and cut together responses are ridiculous yet endearing. From the contributors recollection of where she was originally from to how they addressed her including the cold and stern ‘Ms.Maier’. Then, the audience finds that the odd and secretive woman was born not too far away in New York City. Not France, as the families believed with her European accent.

With her long leg trousers and coats tailored for men, the photographer did stand out in a crowd. Although, she rarely photographed herself. Choosing to shoot peculiar objects on the street such as trash cans, the children see cared for would be look on in amazement.

With no close family to speak of, Maloof finds a few similarities in the vast collection of photographs he has adopted. Her family origins are found in a small village in Southern France. The eager director and writer visits the village in the hopes of gaining a better understanding of Vivian and her mother.

The indie infused film is more than captivating. With such talented work shown on screen, the audience appreciates the controlled madness of the woman. Hoarding newspapers over a number of years became an obsession rather than a playful hobby. Her introverted but strict manner surprised her subjects on the street and those supposedly closest to her.

The biographical film is a true insight into an artist who only received recognition after her death like so many others before her. The theme of truth and understanding trickles into the documentary. Vivian Maier was fascinated by life and death. Now, the art world and others can now be fascinated by her life.

Karen McCain

Updated: Jul 06, 2014

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