What to make of Brock Enright: Good Times Will Never Be the Same, a documentary about an artist whose working methods seem to be a kind of performance art in themselves? Well, I’m not quite sure, naturally, an uncertainty underscored by each image of the film, directed by cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes, who shot the superb Arthur Russell film Wild Combination and the egregious but gorgeous Afterschool. Lipes’s framings here often suggest the painstaking setups of fiction films rather than the handheld style of most on-the-fly documentaries.
Brock Enright — screening as part of the BAMcinemaFest — follows the eponymous artist as he conceives what is to be a career-defining solo show for the Perry Rubenstein Gallery.
Large check in hand, Brock takes off for the secluded California cabin where his painter girlfriend Kirsten’s family lives. There, in a clearing in the woods, Brock and a small group of collaborators construct a stage, adorn it with all manner of odd objects, and proceed to make some sort of confrontational, dread-filled video piece. To maintain the focus on the madness of his subject, Lipes mostly keeps the ultimate form (and reception) of his show under wraps.
After the requisite number of trips to the hardware store, Brock still struggles to summon his energies (“I’m pissed off at my own fatigue”). He argues heatedly with Kirsten, who continually reminds him of practical matters (rent, paying it) in which he has little interest. Tensions escalate elsewhere as well. Unsurprisingly, when Brock comes into the house naked, covered in white paint, and asks to take a sip of Kirsten’s brother’s glass of wine, the response is not particularly friendly. I think the emotional meltdown that the artist has after this is authentic. I have serious doubts about the one that ensues when the gallery’s director comes to check up on Brock’s progress. The one thing for certain about Brock Enright is that it is a strangely compelling portrait of an artist whose creative process demands that he throw himself — and just about everything and everyone around him — headlong into his work.